Release Date: March 18th, 2011 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Greg Mottola Actors: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
ow many movies feature a sarcastic, flip-flop-wearing, bird-eating grey alien voiced by an obscenity-spewing Seth Rogen? Probably only one. Sadly, the originality ends there and even with such a bizarre protagonist, “Paul” offers little else as refreshing as the vulgar creature. Even then, one could argue that it’s simply Seth Rogen playing himself, masked only by a computer-animated extraterrestrial visage. There are several questionably laugh-out-loud moments and a slew of notable character actors (including Jason Bateman, Jane Lynch, and Bill Hader), yet the material they work with is an amusing-at-best array of recycled jokes, overworked sci-fi parodies, and predictable movie references.
After visiting the pop culture melting pot of the San Diego Comic-Con, England natives Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) decide to travel across the U.S. and hit all the major UFO hotspots. Their vacation proceeds as planned until they pick up Paul (Seth Rogen), a hitch-hiker who just happens to be an otherworldly visitor, complete with shocking healing powers, invisibility, and oversized head. Agreeing to help Paul outrun the government agent (Jason Bateman) hot on his trail, Graeme and Clive embark on an out-of-this-world journey across the desert where kidnapped RV park employees, shotgun-toting Christians, inept men in black, and vengeful rednecks are the least of their troubles.
It’s difficult to make a movie based almost entirely on science-fiction references, puns, and not-so-creative cursing. The camera is forced to linger on characters for a few more minutes after they’re done interacting in order to squeeze in an extra, completely unrelated one-liner. And none of it is fall-down funny. Yet Simon Pegg and Nick Frost scripted “Paul” in this manner anyway, generating a generic road trip movie with “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” spoofs galore, half the cast of “Arrested Development” and “Saturday Night Live” leftovers, and sloppy themes of staying friends through thick and thin and uniting against ostracism and injustice toward the unknown.
Just like Britt Reid of “The Green Hornet,” the one actor least suited for voicing a particular role – in this case a little green spaceman – is given the job: Seth Rogen. While his performance isn’t entirely annoying, the integration of a computer animated character is only occasionally convincing. During broad daylight, the environment doesn’t blend with his presence nearly as well as it should, considering the visual effects were provided by “Double Negative,” the company that just picked up Academy Awards for “Inception” and nominations for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” and “Iron Man 2.” “Paul” proves once again that peaceful alien explorers aren’t nearly as exciting as evil alien invaders.
– The Massie Twins