fri 13/12/2019

PAUL | reviews, news & interviews

PAUL

PAUL

Enjoyable spoof sci-fi thriller-cum-road-movie-cum-romance

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg at the moment when they meet an extra-terrestrial in 'PAUL'

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have come a long way from Spaced, the Channel 4 sitcom Pegg created with Jessica Hynes (then Stevenson). When it was canned after two series in 1999 and 2001, Spaced - a very funny and edgy comedy about a group of assorted idlers and oddballs - assumed cult status; now More4 are unashamedly cashing in on Pegg and Frost’s Hollywood debut, PAUL, by repeating Spaced on Sunday nights, which is good news all round.

PAUL is Pegg and Frost’s third movie collaboration after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both entertaining, feel-good bromances that spoofed zombie movies and cop films respectively, but which missed the darker input that Hynes might have added. It is their first without director Edgar Wright; he has gone on to other things, including Scott Pilgrim vs the World; PAUL is directed by Greg Mottola. I must admit I expected to be no more than mildly entertained but laughed a lot, thanks in no small part to a kick-ass performance by Sigourney Weaver and a spot-on cameo by Jane Lynch of Glee fame, but mostly a winning central performance by Seth Rogen as the voice of the eponymous, foul-mouthed CGI alien.

Pegg and Frost play Graeme and Clive, two British sci-fi geeks who go to the huge annual Comic Con (nerd heaven for comic-book fans), and then embark on a road trip to the United States’ UFO sites. There, alone on a desert road one night, they bump into Paul, who needs their help to go home, a nod to E.T. in a film chock-full of witty sci-fi movie references; it certainly helps if you have seen Star Trek, Star Wars, Aliens and Close Encounters. Since he and his fellow planet dwellers landed on Earth decades ago, Paul has been held captive in a mysterious, quasi-government facility, which neatly echoes the 2010 American television blockbuster The Event.

At first sight of Paul, Frost faints (a gag repeated to the point where it’s no longer funny), but Graeme and Clive agree to give him a lift in their rented RV - and he proves to be an interesting passenger as he enlightens them about aliens’ supposed fondness for anal probes, for instance. As they try to get Paul to the site where his fellow planet dwellers will land, they meet diner waitress Lynch and Ruth (Kristen Wiig), the put-upon daughter of a Bible-thumping RV trailer-park owner. Once she realises that Creationism is a load of nonsense, Ruth discovers the joys of profanity and the scene-stealing Wiig gives it both barrels.

What follows is a road-movie-cum-thriller-cum-romance (Graeme falls for Ruth of course) as Pegg, Frost and co are pursued by two bumbling bureau operatives, under the world-weary command of Jason Bateman, giving a terrific performance as ever. Down the phone line, an increasingly manic bureau chief (Weaver) barks orders and there are also pleasing cameos from Blythe Danner as Paul’s friend and Jeffrey Tambor as an acerbic sci-fi novelist.

In such exalted company Frost’s limitations as an actor are apparent, and the linear narrative is rather predictable (except for one nice twist) as it all ends happily, but that’s to overanalyse something that doesn’t purport to be a high-concept sci-fi movie like Christopher Nolan's Oscar-nominated Inception. It’s meant to be an uncomplicated, affectionate spoof - and at that it more than succeeds.

Watch the trailer for PAUL


Paul proves to be an interesting passenger as he enlightens them about aliens’ supposed fondness for anal probes

Share this article

Comments

love this film its so great xx :)

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters