13 September 2011

Movies: Paul

Paul (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1092026/

Comedy

Two British nerds, Graeme and Clive, travel to the U.S. to attend Comic-Con then rent a RV and go on a road-trip through the States visiting significant UFO sites.  After a stop in Roswell, NM,  they are passed by a speeding sedan that crashes ahead of them. When they stop to see if the occupants are okay they meet Paul, a little grey alien. Paul has been stranded on Earth as a 'guest' of the U.S. government since 1947, he escaped, and Graeme and Clive agree to help him get to Wyoming so he can return home.

Stars Simon Pegg (Graeme) and Nick Frost (Clive) of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" fame. Seth Rogen provides the voice (and half of the motion-capture acting) for Paul. We also get a great group of supporting actors like Sigourney Weaver,  Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, John Carroll Lynch, David Koechner, Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch. Even a guest voice appearance by Steven Spielberg.  No complaints about any of the cast, they all do well.  Prior to watching the film I was skeptical of Rogen voicing Paul, but after watching the feature it does work.

Much like "Shaun of the Dead" is a lampoon of the zombie films and "Hot Fuzz" does the same to buddy-cop films, "Paul" tackles the extraterrestrial films. And, like its predecessors, "Paul" is a work of appreciation for its inspirational sources.  Again, the Pegg-Frost dynamic works well. They aren't your classic comedy duo where one is the straight-man and one is the comic, it is more like they trade comedy duo roles as the scene requires, each a compliment to the other.  In this feature Frost plays more of the straight-man role than in the previous two films.

The CG and puppet integration of Paul in with the live actors is realistic. Every bit as good as WETA's work with Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  They got the lighting right in all conditions, I didn't notice any obvious issues.

It's funny, irreverent at times, does the 'anal probe' joke maybe one too many times, has many nods to classic extraterrestrial films like "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "E.T", "Aliens" and more. Paul's influence on Earth culture is explained quickly and makes sense in the context of the film and even better explains the nods to the classics this film references. It has a good soundtrack that works with the film instead of seeming pasted-in as an afterthought. Pegg and Frost seem to have a good handle on American pop culture and it shows.

Paul has some extraterrestrial "powers" that seem like a grab-bag of convenience even though they do factor into the story progression. But I'm no xenobiologist so what do I know. The first 2/3 of the film works well as a type of 'on the road' buddy-film, the last third gets a bit shootey and explosioney.  But one can see the maturation of the Pegg-Frost combo and their script writing, although I do find it curious Edgar Wright wasn't involved this time. Maybe he was busy, but based on future collaboration plans I don't think the working relationship is strained.

I liked the film. It's amusing and enjoyable. The Pegg-Frost dynamic still works well and, so far, they don't play the 'same two guys' in every feature, which is a plus. Worth watching. And if you haven't yet seen "Shaun of the Dead" or "Hot Fuzz" they're worth watching too.

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