Film review – Paul (2011)

Paul: Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost)
Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost)

Two English comic book fans on a UFO-sighting tour in America pick-up a smart-ass alien named Paul. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who both also wrote the script) play the fans, Seth Rogen voices Paul and Greg Mottola (Superbad) directs. With so much reliable talent involved in this film it is extremely disappointing that it is only a mildly amusing comedy with a smattering of reasonably fun science-fiction references.

To be fair there are several supporting actors who provide some great moments to rise above the anal probe and ‘we’re not gay not that there’s anything wrong with that’ gags. Jason Bateman as a mysterious government agent and Kristen Wiig as a fundamentalist Christian discovering the joys of swearing are especially enjoyable.

The final act is reasonably strong but it’s too little too late. The film is overly reliant on Pegg’s, Frost’s and Rogen’s personas for laughs with none of them doing anything we haven’t seen before. There are some fun cameos and inspired moments suggesting how popular culture has been shaped by Paul’s presence on Earth, but this is overall a very average film.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 378, 2011

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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  1. While not as consistently funny or sharp as their previous pairings, Paul is a heartfelt tribute to friendship, what lies beyond the stars, and being a nerd. Good Review!

  2. The movie is very “preachy”. Fundamentalist-type Christians are portrayed as unimaginative, uniformed, and un-cool, while in reality many of this ilk have ideas that totally mesh evolution and science to a God that created the universe, beliefs that are much more complex than the narrow-mindedness of the creators of this film. Pegg and Frost do not realize that they are every bit as “ignorant” in their beliefs; they feel their ideas as strongly as fundamentalist Christians feel theirs, only in an opposite sense. I understand too, after watching the movie, that a person is a bore if they do not swear like a pirate. Many people swear in day-to-day life in a very creative and normal way. I do not have anything against swearing but in this movie it is done in such a unrefined manner. Many times it is “shoe-horned” into the script for some reason. More of the preaching aspect of this film, I suspect, but done in such an untalented way. In many instances it is painful to watch the actors trying to rectify the swearing with the lines; they probably needed psychotherapy after acting in this flick.
    The film has a lot of interesting ideas that attempt broaden thought about the universe, and about life in general, but they are mostly poorly done and the movie could have been much more cool with just a little more refinement of the jokes and script.

  3. Thanks for providing a different perspective on this film Robert. I must confess that while I did have quite a few problems with Paul, the portrayal of fundamentalist Christians was not one of them.

  4. Ha! Yes, I am not a fan of fundamentalist Christians myself, but I am tired of blanket judgements by self-rightious progressive thinkers, too. I tire of them always telling others in movies “what’s cool.” There are many fundamentalists that are quite progressive thinkers and do not agree with the Falwells, Lands, and Robertsons, of the world. This movie could have been truly cool with a little more effort, and a little less hate. But I am probably too serious. I just get tired of preachy movies like this by people that think they are so wonderful. Thanks for the reply!

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