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Simon Pegg and Nick Frost certainly have a great working relationship since their days on Spaced. It translated into a success film career and now they have attempted their biggest project and without long-time director Edgar Wright. Greg Mottola (Superbad) steps in and tackles this sci-fi comedy with a lot of success.
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two British sci-fi geeks visiting America, starting with Comic Con. They travel the Southwest to all the famous UFO sites where on the road they encounter a real-life alien, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Graeme, Clive and Paul quickly have to go on the run from government agents (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Gregg Turkington) as they help Paul, but end up kidnapping a fundamentalist Christian, Ruth (Kristen Wiig), on the way.
Paul is not as good as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but it is a film that Pegg and Frost fans will enjoy. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments with really funny plays on convention (my personal favourite involves probing), but there are also cruder moments that Pegg and Frost have avoided in the past. This is, of course, a move to cater to Seth Rogen’s style of comedy. Added to the mix is Bateman’s deadpan style working against his numb-skull colleagues. The mix of styles works well for the most part and there are some good running gags, but some do not work as well.
Wright’s directing style is very quick and kinetic in Hot Fuzz and “Shaun,” but Mottola has a more relaxed style; he wanted Paul to unfold gradually. He is able to keep boredom from setting in, but he is working with a more rudimentary script.
The chemistry between Pegg and Frost was never in doubt and Frost’s character was made out to be smarter than he has been in previous films. They geeky pair play against Rogen’s outrageous character who is intelligent but basically a frat boy. Wiig’s role of a fundamentalist Christian turning into an atheist will possibly upset organisations like the Christian Science Monitor, but for me that is more an endorsement that shows some of the dogmatic views of creationists. Her discovery of swearing, however, does get tiring.
The CGI for Paul was really effective, showing how a grey alien could really look. There was excellent little details in his face and the way he shows expressions. it’s the kind of special effects that enhances a film.
Directed by Greg Mottola
Written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig and Sigourney Weaver