Friday, March 18, 2011

Paul

Review by Bob Ignizio
In the new sci-fi bromance comedy PAUL, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play Graeme and Clive, a couple of British science fiction nerds (they even speak Klingon) vacationing in America. They've come to attend the San Diego Comic Con before embarking on a road trip in their rented RV to visit sites closely associated with UFO sightings and alien lore. Sites like Area 51 in Nevada, and Roswell, NM. But this fanboy's wet dream of a holiday gets sidetracked when our heroes agree to help escaped extraterrestrial Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) and wind up on the run from government agent Zoil (Jason Bateman).

On the plus side, the guys also pick up a potential love interest for Graeme in Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a fundamentalist Christian who believes the world is only 4000 years old and Paul is a demon. Paul eventually sets her straight, though, in a scene that might well please the Skeptic Magazine crowd if it weren't for the fact that it essentially tears down one unsubstantiated, unscientific belief system (religion) while the whole film works on a premise that props up another (that extraterrestrial beings are visiting earth, and have even been captured by the United States government).

There's nothing especially wrong with PAUL, but there's nothing especially right with it, either. The root of the problem lies with the script. There are some clever ideas here, and a few genuinely funny gags (most of which, sadly, are in the trailer). But far too much of the film falls flat, with the middle in particular dragging as various characters pursue Paul and his human accomplices. There are also too many attempts to pass off profanity in and of itself as a joke, and far too many tiresome nods and winks to other science fiction films, most notably those of Steven Spielberg who provides a voice cameo. Both SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, which Pegg co-wrote with Edgar Wright and co-starred in with Frost, had similar pop culture references throughout, but there they felt more organic. Here they just seem like a cheap attempt to curry favor with the target audience based on familiarity alone.

Pegg and Frost continue to be a good comedic team, once again displaying the same sort of chemistry and timing that made them so likeable in SHAUN and HOT FUZZ. Even Rogen, whose stock slacker character has gotten old as he repeats it in movie after movie, does a fine job voicing the computer animated Paul. And despite her character starting out as a one dimensional stereotype, Wiig gives one of her most understated and sincere performances on film to date. I really wanted to like this movie more, but I just didn't. .A little tightening up in the editing room, or more fine tuning of the script, and this might have been a much better movie. But I can only review the movie that is, not the one that might have been. 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.

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