16 February 2011
They play Graeme and Clive, two nerds who trek across the Atlantic to the San Diego Comic Con and then go on a whistle-stop tour of America's extra-terrestrial hotspots. A government vehicle overturns in the middle of the desert, right in front of their RV, and the pair are introduced to an alien called Paul. Paul is immensely powerful and quite rude, and he's now a fugitive from the US government.
I don't mention the bigger budget lightly, but neither do I take it as a sign that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have sold out. Hell, Pegg has already starred in Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Ice Age and Narnia sequels- if he was ever selling out, he'd have done it before Paul. I mention the budget because many have blamed it for the fact that this film isn't as much like their earlier collaborations with Wright. I would submit that it's not meant to be the same as those films.
The suggestion seems to be that behind closed doors, the bigger budget had some big faceless studio suits trying to divert the two from the formula that made their Transatlantic successes of the past. Blame the studio and the big budget for the shitty marketing, as the two stars have done themselves during their promotion of the film, but is it not true that the same people complaining that it's different would probably be calling it formulaic if it were another Shaun of the Dead?
The charge might be that it's not as funny, but Paul made me laugh quite a lot. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favourite films of all time, so I was never measuring against that, but if it's trying to be a big-budget cameo-laden caper along the lines of The Blues Brothers (just one of the many texts referenced in the usual maelstrom of cine-literacy that comes with these writers), then it works perfectly well.
I also kind of disliked the rampant anti-religious bent. I'm definitely not a big fan of organised religion, and I was initially intrigued by the idea that a card-carrying t-shirt-wearing Creationist, played by Kristen Wiig, would be confronted with the incontrovertible proof of life on other planets. Then I saw how mean-spirited the script plays it. Darwin is cited a fair bit, but it's really closer to Dawkins, and the potential is stripped from an interesting character dynamic at the end of that scene, as if the film isn't really interested in it.
On the positive side though, I found that Paul is just a fun time to have at the cinema. Additionally, kudos must be given for the technical side of things. Director Greg Mottola, of Superbad and Adventureland fame, hasn't dealt with big special effects before, but manages remarkably well. The film's biggest special effect is its title character, Paul, who's entirely a motion-capture creation. Seth Rogen provides his voice, in a turn that's more enjoyable than his recent outing as the Green Hornet.
The Blues Brothers parallel amps up considerably when you look at the cast, pulling in as many big names of great American comedy as possible. Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Jeffrey Tambor, David Koechner, Joe Lo Truglio- and the list goes on. There's also an inspired nerd-cred cameo in the third act that you'll be very lucky to avoid hearing about before going in. It counts as a spoiler, pretty much, and yet this person's name is on the fucking poster- thanks a bunch, Universal, for your ever-shitty marketing.
Paul is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Paul, why not share your comments below?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.