Walking into some films you can’t help but question yourself on how you could possibly be objective when you already feel that the folks behind and in front of the camera can do no wrong. Case in point this week happens to be the new film from spoof/homage masters Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Bringing a new director in tow with Greg Mottola and letting Frost finally share co-writing duties doesn’t keep this from not being a surrogate addition to the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy or the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy as it’s been called here in the States. Even with Edgar Wright having nothing to do with this, there’s something far too familiar with Paul to set it apart, I’m thinking the inclusion of producer Nira Park certainly helps though.
First it was zombies (Shaun of the Dead), then for the greater good it was Michael Bay (Hot Fuzz) and soon enough they’ll be tackling the end of the world (the aptly titled The World’s End). They say write what you know and it’s extremely clear that what these two (Pegg and Frost) know, is movies and comedy. Pegg and Wright have mentioned they’re wanting to make Frost a larger part of the writing process on World’s End and if its any indication from the likes of Paul then I can’t help but feel that somewhere along the way he already has been, even if uncredited. Now having taken on the genre of sci-fi, or even more exact – Steven Spielberg films in particular – it’s pretty clear that these guys know how to write a spoof and have been giving the finger to team Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg since 2004.
In Paul we are introduced to a wide eyed little girl having herself a close encounter in Moorcroft, WY circa 1947 ending with her film-titled dog being squished by a crashing UFO. Cut to the present day where we meet Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) freshly arriving at Comic Con. They meet their favorite science-fiction writer, Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor) where Clive tries to show off his own sci-fi story featuring a three titted alien on the cover (“awesome,” as everyone who sees continually repeats).
Moving on, the duo hit the road where they have mapped out their travels seeking out all things extraterrestrial ranging from the Vasquez Rocks in California to Nevada State Route 375 with a stop off at the black mailbox. It’s not too long before their backing into a couple of hillbillies’ (David Koechner and Jesse Plemons) truck and meeting up with our title character, a little green man named Paul (perfectly and hilariously voiced and motion captured by Seth Rogen) and eventually Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) whom they accidentally kidnap from her Utah fundamentalist father Moses (John Carrol Lynch).
Turns out Paul is on the lam from The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver) and soon enough everyone from a pair of bored, bumbling, hide and seek playing FBI agents, Haggard and and O’Reilly (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) to an in touch with his inner badass Jason Bateman as Agent Zoil. All Paul wants to do is go home but The Big Guy wants his brain for study even if it’s at his health’s expense (even while Paul comes off as a bit of a chainsmoker) and turns out that Paul first thought he wasn’t the prisoner it turns out he really was. We also learn he’s had quite an affect on pop culture from flashbacks and conversations along the way.
While Paul may have originally seemed simple enough on paper, it’s actually got far more plot than you’d ever expect; let alone way more characterization and heart to go alongside all the one-liners and fart and dick jokes. While some people are stuck playing one-note versions of their arrested development oversized id’s (pretty much anyone involved with Happy Madison Productions), Frost and Pegg are quickly immortalizing the fact that even when you’ve finally reached an age such as 40, it’s ok to still love your comics and take a bro-mantic holiday through the back roads of America.
To give away any of the big jokes would be a complete disservice as the film is on a constant crescendo with each one pretty much topping the last Meanwhile, the cast is pitch perfect and Mottola shows that David Gordon Green isn’t the only one graduating from smaller scale films like Superbad and Adventureland as Green is with Pineapple Express and his upcoming Your Highness. Working with so many people you’re already comfortable with can’t hurt things either. Most of the cast and crew have worked together almost their entire careers in one way or another. So listen up non-believers, Paul is probably the sci-fi extravaganza we’ve all been waiting for, now have Scottie beam you up and buckle in for the most hilarious ride of the spring.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures