directed by Greg Mottola
(Universal, 2011)

Paul is one of those tribute-by-way-of-trope movies that can be either very grating and mechanical, or it can be delightful. I'd opt for seeing it for what it is: charming fun, entertaining in the spirit of movies like Galaxy Quest. It's far from perfect, and you have to have a deep knowledge of sci-fi and pop culture trivia to get all the jokes, but what I liked best about this valentine to fanboys is that it's genial, sincere and more than capable of producing a few good laughs.

Graeme (Nick Frost) and Clive (Simon Pegg), best friends and sci-fi-fanatics, are traveling through the American Southwest on the proverbial road trip, visiting all the alien hot spots from Area 51 to Roswell while driving back from the San Diego ComicCon. Along the way they pick up the real thing in the form of Paul, a bulb-headed alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) who crash-landed on Earth in 1947. Having been held in captivity in Area 51 all these years, he escapes when he realizes he is going to be euthanized.

Paul is a foulmouthed but goodhearted little dude who gets his new friends to loosen up a little and also rights a few wrongs along the way, kind of like a stoner, beach-bum version of E.T.

Of course the typical chase scenes ensue, with law enforcement agents on their trail and shadowy, X-Files-type government figures with hidden agendas operating in the background. Sigourney Weaver has an especially interesting cameo, with Blythe Danner, Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig rounding out the excellent cast.

Swiftly plotted and as filled with snappy one-liners as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (also starring Pegg and Frost), Paul is very sweet in spite of its many stumbles. Even though Pegg and Frost seemed to get lost in, and eventually sidetracked by, their own movie, they really have nailed the persona of the fanboys with the dated T-shirts and the limited social skills. Though the love story angle between Wiig and Pegg feels forced, and the speed of the movie approaches breakneck one too many times, there are graceful moments that make the movie a worthwhile experience.

Ultimately, it's all done with great warmth and affection, and that's what carries the movie. There are more original movies and there are funnier movies, but few are more sincere. Some might view it as hit or miss, but I'd rate it highly enjoyable and worth spending a couple of hours on.

review by
Mary Harvey

25 February 2012

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