For the incredibly over-the-top crowd that they are, ‘fanboys’ (and ‘girls) have had precious little representation on the big screen. Sure, all the geek-tastic movies set up shop at ComicCon every July to please (and appeal to) the masses, but what about giving some of those masses a little screen time?
Well, Paul is here to finally give the delightful folk who annually dress up like Bikini Leia and The Green Lantern a moment in the sun. It’s jam-packed with fun sci-fi references, and even though it’s not a sure-fire home run, it’s still fun enough to keep you laughing.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead) play Graeme and Clive, two of the aforementioned fan boys. Clive’s an aspiring comic book (oops… make that ‘graphic novel’) writer, and Graeme is his illustrator. They come to the States to attend ComicCon, and then they set out on a road trip to all the UFO hotspots in the American southwest (Area 51, Roswell, etc.)
Along the way, they trip on Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a little-green-man who landed on Earth back in ’47. But Paul isn’t the standard guns-blazing, psycho alien who’s here to take over the planet. He’s a very friendly little dude who’s sporting cargo shorts and flip-flops. He smokes, knows all the requisite slang, and he’s personally (alienally?) been influencing pop culture behind-the-scenes for decades (Agent Scully? His idea.)
Now, though, Paul is on the run. His number is almost up (time for the ol’ alien autopsy), and he needs to escape ‘the big guy’ to get back to the landing field for his homies to pick him up. Of course, Graeme and (after a little convincing) Clive are more-than-happy to help out, even if it means they have to outrun a pair of ticked-off rednecks (long story) and the fundamentalist Christian father of a young woman (Kristen Wiig) who they kidnap along the way. Of course, the Feds are also on their trail, led by Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman. Genius.), with ‘assistance’ from henchmen played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio. Watch out for fun turns by Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, David Koechner, and Blythe Danner. And, by and large, Rogen’s voice performance is actually tolerable, too.
Paul is very much in the same vein as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead: outrageous humor (most of which works), a moderate amount of violence (gunshots, etc.), and pop culture riffs galore (Star Wars, Close Encounters, Titanic, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones, just to name six).
While not as gut-bustingly funny as Fuzz and Shaun, Paul is still good. Director Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) knows his stuff, and there are times you’ll swear you’re watching E.T. or Men in Black (in a good way).
The screenplay by Frost and Pegg is solid (as are their performances), and, even though it’s centered on geek-dom, it’s broad enough that everyone will get the majority of sci-fi references. Some true geeks will actually pick up on more obscure bits, like the lads’ visit to Vazquez Rocks (of Star Trek fame) and a famous line from Star Wars that Zoil mutters toward the end.
Skip the popcorn, though, and go for the Reese’s Pieces. Seems only fitting.