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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Paul (2011), Channel 4

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Sigourney Weaver, Seth Rogen, Jane Lynch 
Genre: Science Fiction Comedy 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $97 million 

Plot: For the past 60 years, a wisecracking alien named Paul has resided at a top secret military base in America's UFO heartland. When Paul decides he has had enough of Earth, he escapes from the compound and hops on the first handy vehicle - a rented RV manned by 2 British Sci-Fi nerds named Graeme and Clive. With federal agents and the father of an accidental kidnap victim on their trail, the two hatch a plan to help Paul return to his spaceship

'E.T, Meets Thelma & Louise With A Dash of Galaxy Quest, Paul Is Still Out Of This World'

Ever since the Channel 4 comedy show, Spaced landed on British TV screens, the partnership of Nick Frost and Simon Clegg has been one of domestic, as well as transatlantic success. Making that transition from the small screen to the big screen, their film offerings have been an interesting take on particular genres and sub-genres of movies and with an added comedic twist. Shaun of the Dead paid homage to Horror films and the original Dawn of the Dead with the killer zombies, whereas Hot Fuzz took elements from Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours and other, buddy cop Hollywood films and successfully interwoven that into an action flick about 2 British policemen. The poster for Hot Fuzz definitely has a Hollywood-esque feel to it with explosions and sparks flying in the background. 

2011's Paul follows in the same footsteps as those previous offerings: the only differences being the film was produced on a much larger budget and the supporting cast had slightly more established names on the bill, such as Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Seth Rogen. Performers of whom are widely renowned in the American comedy circuit, not just in the film world. They all lend themselves to this film well, in their own ways and through their individual character parts and it is good that their roles didn't go to waste, as their characters were involved in some interesting situations. I thought the cameo by Sigourney Weaver was a great boost to the film & when she uttered her famous Ripley line from Aliens, I couldn't help but giggle. 

Comic book nerds Grahame and Clive are on a road trip in San Diego, California when on their way, they pick up an unlikely passenger: an alien going by the name of 'Paul'. Paul has escaped from a top-secret government hideout for years on end, with the intention of returning home. Grahame and Clive, with the help of a few friends they have met along the way, set out to assist Paul in doing just that. 

Operating on the lines of a Thelma & Louise-style road trip movie, the concept itself is an interesting twist on the sci-fi formula with irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humour that some will take a while to get used to, yet of which toes more in line with 1999's Galaxy Quest. But for the rest of us, it is one that will make you smile. I know I did. The references to other sci-fi movies was a good idea, especially as it gives the film more credibility, as well as an identity. Paul is a sci-fi comedy, yet by adding bits and bobs from Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T doesn't hurt or hinder the movie, but rather aid it, and these references do aid Paul and giving the film something to build on as it progresses. If I have to describe this film, I would say it is an R-rated version of E.T meets Thelma and Louise, with a dash of adult comedy, and has a sci-fi comedy tone that is similar-ish to Galaxy Quest. The look, feel, as well as the way the story is told from the main characters in a way that many sci-fi nerds can probably relate to and understand more.

The titular character of Paul acts like a human being, more so than as an alien and smokes, drinks, curses, is crude and is sarcastic at times. But thanks to Seth Rogen's vocal antics, he also makes Paul likeable and somewhat appealing to the audience, with a sense of heart. I can understand when some will see Paul as more of a caricature or cartoon-like sidekick than a viable character. Even by looking at Paul's appearance, his design somewhat reminds me of another alien character in Roger from the Fox animated show, American Dad. Heck, even some of his mannerisms and traits were like that character. 

What struck me about Paul was unlike so many movies featuring aliens, this one through the character of Paul was not portrayed or made out to be a blood-sucking, evil, freaky killer that wants to take over the world and eat people's brains. But rather a friendly, approachable alien, of whom we want to see happy and for him to return home, thank goodness. It was refreshing to see, especially in a comedy and the manner this idea was conveyed was great.  

Paul didn't grab me as much as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead and as a film, on the whole, it is not as solid, although thankfully Simon Pegg and Nick Frost did a good job by giving everyone an arc, rather than make Paul, be about them and their own characters. The humour wasn't overly amusing, but it is played out with warmth and is also not too over-the-top crude. 

It definitely has a lighter and a subtler feel than Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, yet as a film, Paul still fulfils what it sets out to do, whilst being fun, at times charming, witty and though not full of depth, it still remains watchable, promising and entertaining, nonetheless. 

Final Verdict:

Despite the more established stars, I didn't find this film as accessible and broader than counterparts, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fizz, but this is still the same Pegg and Frost weaving their magic, British wit and humour in this American-based ET -like tale. 

I think 20, 30 years down the line, we will see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's comedy movies to be mentioned on the same lines as This is Spinal Tap, Stripes, The Big Lebowski and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Paul definitely has that non-commercial, mainstream style that audiences will galvanise towards and a film that will build up a cult following. I'm generally not a fan of many comedy movies, post 2000-era, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's offerings have been on point for me. &  I'll probably enjoy Paul more and give it a higher rating after several viewings, as it's definitely a film I'll revisit again. 

Paul isn't just a sci-fi comedy, it is an interesting take on one but it is also a comedy that isn't lacking in heart, as well: add in some fun hijinks, some unpredictability, great support by the other cast members and equally great leads in Pegg and Frost, and what you have is a unique, likable and amusing take on the sci-fi formula.   

If you loved Galaxy Quest, then I think you'll enjoy Paul as well. 


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