PAUL Review

How do you make an alien movie original in this day and age? We asked this question in serious terms last week with "Battle LA" but another week and another alien film means a different variation on the answer. This week is the long-awaited follow-up to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's commentaries on different aspects of pop culture. They've tackled the zombie craze and cop/buddy flicks with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" so why not make a film about the nerdy sub-culture of the world? Insert "Paul" a road trip, buddy flick following two sci-fi obsessed friends who stumble across an actual alien. I love the kinds of films and stories that there are countless references too in the movie. Whether it be the entire climax of the film mirroring a Spielberg type film or the fact every other character in the film is some kind of inside joke about stock characters in those kinds of stories, it's great. It's all well thought out and a pretty great comedy, but at the end I wondered if anyone outside the realm of science fiction films or super hero mythology might enjoy this kind of film at all.

And while the first fifteen minutes or so lead us to believe the audience might be a bit too narrow for this to be as popular as the two leads previous works, but then something happens, the little green guy shows up with the voice of Seth Rogen and we know after he utters his first few lines that he won't only broaden the comedy, but he will bring balance to it. No doubt, intentionally, Pegg and Frost made the two human leads harder to understand than the extra terrestrial. As a kind of stoner dude, Paul, curses and smokes as Rogen delivers his best comedic performance since "Pineapple Express". Rogen, though making Paul as rude and crude as possible balances him out with a sweet side that allows the title character to be the best thing about this film. Whereas Pegg's Graeme Willy and Frost's Clive Gollings are the characters who make the biggest transformations throughout the course of the film it is Paul who helps them do so and no matter how bog of lovable dorks those two are, it is clear the real appeal is the little green alien.

What also makes this not only one of the smarter comedies so far this year, but one of the best is the combination of Rogen and "Superbad" director Greg Mottola's loud and vulgar sense of humor combined with the more subtle and observational humor of Pegg and Frost. Combined with a great comedic cast including Jason Bateman as the secret agent with a secret past sent to capture paul. Bill Hader doing wonderful as the leader of Bateman's second hand men who are in the dark about what exactly they're trying to capture. As his partner Joe Lo Truglio gets some of the bigger laughs as he continues to get bigger parts, but I must admit the guy makes one too many space man balls jokes as well as the film overall taking a bit too many hits on the question of if Graeme and Clive are gay joke and of course the whole anal probing thing. One joke is plenty fellas.

Besides other great cameos from David Koechner, Jane Lynch, and Jeffrey Tambor there is Blythe Danner, stealing her scenes, as the young girl all grown up who's yard Paul crash landed in and Sigourney Weaver as "The Big Guy" leading the mission of capturing Paul in order to probe his own brain. Weaver in this part is a joke in itself, seeing as she is kind of the matriarch of films like "Aliens", "Avatar", and "Ghostbusters". But the real gem in casting here was the idea to have Kristen Wiig as a scared and sheltered daughter of a strong Christian man who comes to feel freed by Paul and his two geeky co-horts. As Ruth Buggs, Wiig creates what is her best big screen creation to date. Whereas her SNL regulars may get a little redundant, here she is hilariously innocent as a woman new to cussing and eager to try out a combination of curse words, no matter the context. It is hilarious and the only repetitive joke throughout the film that never gets old. If it is any indication of Wiig's big screen career, we have a lot of good things to look forward to.

And though "Paul" may not ever reach the expectations I held for it, it offers enough little moments to keep you laughing and repeating a few lines with your friends as you leave the theater. It may not appeal to everyone as well as a big Hollywood production should, but if you have seen E.T. or anything having to do with Star Wars you might get a few of the jokes. And no matter how appealing the title character might be here, and trust me, Paul is a hilarious character, the thing I couldn't shake about "Paul" is that it never gets past its own limitations.

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