How can you tell this is Comic-Con?

Theatrical Release Date: 03/18/2011
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen (voice), Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, John Carroll Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch
Rated: R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Runtime: 1 hour, 44 minutes


You’re not even gonna share with us?

Knowing that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were not only starring in but had written the screenplay for “Paul”, I had circled March 18th on the calendar some time ago. Their projects have provided endless replayability over the years and it’s because of their past success that I hold them up to a higher standard.

The script is witty and absolutely stuffed with funny sci-fi references and film quotes. If you’ve watched films in that genre for the last thirty years, you’ll be matching up dialogue and concepts from the likes of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, “Aliens”, “Star Wars” and many, many more. Also, expect cameos from a few of the important figures related to those franchises.

Pegg and Frost do a nice job of playing sci-fi geeks, initially stateside to attend Comic-Con (beautifully recreated in an L.A. studio though the background shots were done in San Diego). They rent an R.V. and plan to see all the pertinent U.F.O. sites across America. Of course, they run into a little green man by the name of Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who needs a lift to get where he’s going before the government catches him and uses a scalpel to see the inner workings of his brain.

The journey sees Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio join the adventure, with cameos by a number of other noted comedians like Jane Lynch and Jeffrey Tambor. To be sure, the script is ready for all of them and once the credits stopped rolling (stay through the end for extra scenes), I immediately wondered how great this could have been if Edgar Wright had been available to work with Pegg and Frost.

However, as fate and circumstance would have it, the directing duties were being handled by Greg Mottola (“Superbad“, “Adventureland“). To no surprise, this is where the film manages to land itself in mediocre territory. Wright’s direction and sensibilities are in tune with the subject material and its actors. “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” exist because of the collaboration between all three people, missing the man behind the camera clearly shows here. Mottola’s direction isn’t terrible but it’s far from inspired. Other than a voice to call “action” and a butt to place in the director’s chair, I’m not sure what he brought to the table.

Simply put, I liked “Paul” … but I didn’t love it like I wanted to and can only give it a 3 out of 5. Fans of Pegg and Frost will surely make their way to the theaters to see this, and I can’t blame them. Even for people not so familiar with the actors but who consider themselves sci-fi fans, this is an enjoyable comedy. However, don’t go in expecting anything near the level of past works by the pair, as the importance of Wright’s ability to blend sci-fi with comedy and action is what I learned most from watching this film.

3 out of 5