Friday, 25 February 2011

Film Review: Paul

For some inexplicable reason, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are deemed by many as some of the funniest muthafuckers this country has produced in the last ten years. This is in large part based on the successes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This then prompted many to revisit one of Pegg's first forays into comedy, the cult sitcom, Spaced. Bandwagon jumpers started calling the series "ahead of its time", as if to somehow justify its omittance from the comedy hall of fame. Let's be frank though, Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are boring, drab and meandering works of beige. The jokes aren't particularly sharp or laugh out loud, hitting one with a muted, dull thud. On that note then, one, or rather I, might expect Paul to be much of the same tedious shit.

Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two British geeks living the dream. On holiday in America for the annual Comic-Con event, the two have plans to take a road trip to see where the whole alien mythology began - Area 51, Nevada. While driving one night, the duo make first contact with a crass, four-foot alien named Paul (Rogen). Discovering Paul is on the run from the authorities, Graeme and Clive agree to help the little fella get home, all the while pursued by bumbling government agents.

Paul marks the first time that Pegg and Frost have actually written a script together, and it shines through that the two real-life best buds had a lot of fun with it. Essentially, this is a road-movie with a sci-fi twist. Pegg's previous efforts in Shaun and Fuzz were co-written with Edgar Wright, who also directed both, and it is immediately evident that there is a marked difference in tone between those and Paul. And it's for the better. Paul is immediately more engaging, almost having an airier, lighter feel about it. Yes, critics might say this is more commercialized, but it is also more charming and delectable than its predecessors.

As you would expect, the homages to geekdom come thick and fast, with references to Aliens, Star Wars and just about any other sci-fi franchise you can think of. There's even a cameo from Sigourney Weaver. Unfortunately, the film misses a trick by failing to humiliate the entire lore and conventions surrounding such nerdy pursuits. It is disappointing that Pegg and Frost shied away from this, probably out of fear that they would offend their core audience. As such, the film descends into shock-value comedy, running with one particularly tiresome gag which alludes to Graeme and Clive being gay. But Paul has a saving Grace, and that is, well, Paul - a potty-mouthed, pot-smoking little grey alien donning a pair of cargos. Paul injects an energy otherwise lacking, acting as a catalyst which allows all the other characters to develop and play off. Indeed, it was this energy which was so sorely missing in both Shaun and Fuzz.

I'm sure, out there, some pompous, self-important, pseudo-intellectual who "adores" the "genius" of Pegg's earlier works will lambast Paul for being "too crude" and "shallow". But nothing could be further from the truth. Paul is accessible, emanating a genuine radiance of warmth not present in Shaun or Fuzz. Yes, it's a nerdy tribute to geeks the world over, but it's also funny and full of heart. Definitely Pegg and Frost's finest work to date.


AP said...

Hmm, that's a rather interesting review. By all accounts, I expected 'Paul' to be, well, shit. Mostly because it has a CGI alien in it - that really put me off.

I kind of agree with your points about their earlier work - especially about Hot Fuzz. I think you're being a bit too harsh on 'Shaun of the Dead', which is markedly superior to the Fuzz (the scene where he is buying the groceries is, to my mind, pure gold). I don't agree they lack warmth - after all, they are essentially buddy movies, which I'd argue is predominantly built on warmth between the two buddies. But they definately lack an oomph, a zest, a spark.

So, yes, I think I'll give this a look-see :-)

Alekazam said...

Don't get me wrong, Paul is middle of the road, but it's certainly not shit. I was actually pleasantly surprised, and it was probably this surprise which makes this review seem "glowing".

Shaun was dull imo and proceeded at an ironically zombie-like pace. It reminds me of primary school kids running around in a playground. Yes, Shaun and Fuzz are also buddy comedies, but they were poorly executed. I had no affinity with any of the characters and that lacking spark did nothing to generate warmth and affection you'd expect from films of that type.