Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Paul - 2011

"Paul" - 2011
Dir. by Greg Mottola - 1 hr. 44 min.

Official Red Band Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"Paul" is that movie with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost that's not part of their "Three Flavours Cornetto" series, even though Pegg and Frost wrote this one.  I guess it not being directed by Edgar Wright is the difference.  Also, they're in America this time, which is another difference.  But it's still pretty good.  It's not great; it's like a well-written version of a fairly thin idea.  So that means that whatever you think of the idea of two comics nerds coming across a genuine alien and engaging in a road trip, this is one of the best possible versions of whatever is floating around in your head.

Clive (Frost) and Graeme (Pegg) are a pair of British comic book fans who are fulfilling a life-long dream of attending ComiCon in San Diego.  Since it's quite a haul from GB to San Diego, they've also rented an RV, and are taking a road trip through the southwest, hitting up all the big alien-related hotspots, like Area 51 and Roswell.  Along the way, they discover a genuine alien, named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), who is trying to escape the clutches of the government.  Also, he's foul-mouthed and smokes weed.  Among the government agents trying to track down Paul are Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), and Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio).

One of the unusual things about "Paul" is that it's a movie with two straight-men.  Both Clive and Graeme aren't really the sources of the humor, unless you're really amused by the notion of attending ComiCon or digging alien stuff.  Instead, they spend a lot of time reacting to the people and the world around them.  To some degree, this is a political statement about the oddness of America, from a fish-out-of-water viewpoint.  It's also literalized through a pair of hillbilly bullies, Gus (David Koechner) and Jake (Jesse Plemons).  But this approach might be part of the reason why the cast is stacked, comedically-speaking.  I haven't even gotten around to mentioning that Kristen Wiig is in the movie, and pretty much steals the show whenever she's on-screen, and we're already something like a dozen deep of people who are funny every time out.

On the downside, Seth Rogen does pretty much exactly what Seth Rogen does every time in every movie he's in, but without the benefit of his physical acting and presence.  It's not so much that Rogen isn't funny, as it is that I'd like to see him do something against expectations at some point.  A genial, gravel-voiced little buddy is pretty much 100% what I expect out of him in this role, and a couple of "Observe and Report" moments would have gone far to keep audiences on their toes.  I'll admit this is a petty complaint; I've seen a lot of Rogen's movies, and I'm sure there are plenty of people that are perfectly happy watching him do his thing.

I'm happy I finally got around to watching "Paul."  It's not the best of the Pegg/Frost movies, but it's still pretty funny, and there's a near-infinite amount of really good comedians doing what they do.  And the entire run-time of "Paul" is worth it for the scene where Wiig's character breaks free from her oppressive religious father, and it dawns on her that she can do anything she wants, including cursing and fornicating.  Not only is her awkward pawing of Graeme hilarious, it sets her character down the path of learning how to swear for the rest of the film, which is one of the Rated-R highlights of "Paul."  I feel certain I'd watch it again, if I stumbled across it on cable, and I'd probably enjoy it just as much.

3 / 5 - TV (HD)

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