What do you get when you cross the two guys responsible for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and the cult hit UK TV Show Spaced with the director of Superbad? The answer is the new film Paul, which is arguably the best comedy to come along in years.
Paul tells the story of two British sci-fi geeks, the author Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) and his friend and illustrator Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg), as they head to San Diego on vacation – and to attend the San Diego Comic Con. After attending the event, the two rent an RV and head out on a trip to see several famous UFO sightings before heading home. Somewhere between Area 51 and the Black Mailbox, the two get in a car accident with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan), an alien who has been on Earth for the past 60 years and is now trying to escape the government because he is deemed no longer valuable to them. After the initial meeting between the three (which included a brief pants-peeing incident), Graeme and Clive agree to help Paul escape the government agents after him. What ensues next is a madcap romp through the heartland of America.
Even though Pegg and Frost wrote Paul, along with Shaun and Hot Fuzz, this movie had a different feel to it than previous Pegg/Frost efforts. I think that can be directly attributed to director Greg Mottola. He was really able to keep the gags coming with the directorial decisions he made as well as due to the work of the amazing supporting cast he assembled, which includes SNL cast members Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and Arrested Development alumni Jason Bateman and Jeffrey Tambor.
While the casual moviegoer will surely appreciate this movie and laugh throughout, it feels like everyone involved with this movie had a special place in their hearts for fans of geek culture and science fiction, because the movie is filled with several nods to the genre. Every time one of those moments showed up (no matter how subtle), this geek had an extra laugh. My favorite genre-related gag of the movie is when Paul asked Graeme and Clive for Reese's Pieces at a gas station.
The only thing I was worried about before seeing this movie was Seth Rogen's involvement. Don't get me wrong, Rogen is a very funny actor, I just feel like he's become a one-trick pony. With Seth's involvement, there was the obligatory marijuana scene, but it worked well within the context of the movie. Plus, I was pleasantly surprised with Rogen's performance as the voice of Paul.
At its heart, Paul is a buddy road trip movie. The addition of an alien and the complications of being chased by the government and a bible-thumping over-protective father (part of Wiig's story in the movie), gave Paul more substance and a more satisfying plot. This is a very funny movie that will be enjoyed by all. It's the little touches and respect to the sci-fi genre that make this movie special. I found myself getting excited each time I thought another reference was coming. These instances didn't feel forced or corny either which is a credit to Pegg and Frost's respect for the genre.
At the end of the day, everyone involved with this film delivers great performances that are a joy to watch. I am a die-hard Simon Pegg and Nick Frost fan, and after watching Paul, I may have a new favorite work in their canon. This movie was so good, not only would I shell out the money to see it again in the theatre, but I'll also buy it when it comes out on DVD. It's just a shame rated-R comedies don't get taken seriously for awards because if they did, Paul would be a shoe-in for a Best Comedy of 2011 nomination.
Rating: FOUR BONES
Release Date: March 18th, 2011
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Jeffrey Tambor, and Bill Hader
Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg