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March 18, 2011
Review - " Paul "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed By: Greg Mottola
Starring: Nick Frost, Simon Peg, Kristen Wiig, Seth
Rogan, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Hader

Isn't it every fanboy’s dream to actually meet an alien? If
so, what do you do once you meet one? That is the
dilemma that Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) and Graeme Willy
(Simon Pegg) find themselves in. Paul is about two British
sci-fi dweebs, a one-hit-wonder novelist (Frost) and his
cover artist (Pegg), whose most memorable creation was
a warrior-woman with three boobs.  (The only thing better
than two.)  They rent an RV to take a cross-country drive
through America, starting at nerd mecca (San Diego
Comic-Con) and making a pilgrimage to Area 51.  Deep in
the desert of the American Southwest, they encounter a
coarse, gregarious, and sometimes belligerent alien who
introduces himself as Paul, voiced appropriately by Seth

Like Spielberg’s ET, Paul needs help going home.  Like
Starman, he’s on the run.  There are shadowy
government forces out to get him, in the form of Jason
Bateman’s super-competent Agent Zoil, Bill Hader & Joe
LoTruglio’s super-incompetent Haggard & O’Reilly, and
the one behind the scenes pulling all the strings, the Big
Guy, who is only heard and not seen until the end of the
movie.  (One of Paul’s few missteps is the anti-climactic
reveal of this iconic actor – there is no one in this
audience who does not recognize that voice from the very
first scene it is heard.  It’s great to have that person in this
movie, but it doesn’t play as the surprise that it seems to
be meant to be.)
All of those people are chasing Paul and his friends, not to mention a pair of angry rednecks played by Anchorman’s David
Koechner and Observe & Report’s Jesse Plemons, and the fundamentalist RV park owner played by Zodiac’s John Carroll
Lynch, who is after the guys after they are forced to kidnap his daughter, played by Kristen Wiig as your next geek dream
girl, a rigid believer in intelligent design until she has her mind blown by meeting a real-deal alien.  The point is, Paul is
really one long chase scene of a movie, which means that, beyond all of the excellent movie references (which include
Alien, Aliens, Predator, Star Wars, Mac & Me, Men In Black, Back To The Future, Lord Of The Rings, Close Encounters Of
The Third Kind, Jaws, Duel, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark – this movie goes heavy on the Spielberg), the movie I was
reminded of most frequently was The Cannonball Run.  That’s a good thing, kiddo.

Wiig and Seth Rogen are the funniest of the bunch. Wiig infuses some charm and wit into her character even though at first
Ruth Buggs is a riff that panders to stereotypes on the most basest of levels with an attack on creationism that could be
mined in a far more entertaining manner. Rogen certainly seems much more at ease with voice over work. One of his best
works was as B.O.B. in Monsters vs. Aliens. All of the stiff and stilted body language is let go and he stops thinking too
much about his performance. Some of the funniest performances are very quick cameos by veterans Jane Lynch and
Jeffrey Tambor.

The special effects are top notch. This is some of the best motion-capture work outside of a Peter Jackson movie that I
have seen. Paul is certainly a very believable, full bodied and breathing being.

If it sounds like there’s a lot going on, it’s because there is, but it never feels like too much.  The tone of Paul is light and
breezy, and uncommonly generous in spirit.  Even the “bad guys” are played by beloved and/or lovable actors who get
great lines.   There are a lot of great lines to go around.  This is one seriously quotable movie.  That’s Pegg & Frost’s forte,
and on that front, this is their best
work yet.  I’m not making claims for
Paul as a new classic – it’s not
particularly profound (despite Pegg &
Frost’s oddly consistent tendency to
have at least one of them commit at
least one heroic sacrifice in every
movie they do) and it’s a bit of a
shaggy dog – but it’s one extremely
endearing shaggy dog.  As always,
you yearn for more of Jason Bateman
and particularly more of Kristen Wiig,
as her character gets many great
moments but the story could use
more, but I have to love a movie that
so relentlessly goes after creationists,
fundamentalists, anti-evolutionists,
demagogues, and close minds.