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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look60%
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Pretty Crappy: 32.5%
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5 reviews, 10 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Not 'Shaun,' but still pretty good."
4 stars

Why should American geeks have all the fun? At first glance, England doesn't seem like fertile soil for nerdy enthusiasms too jaded and stoic. Enter Simon Pegg and Nick Frost from Old Blighty, wild-eyed and jabbering effusively about jedis and zombies and cop movies.

Their collaborations with director Edgar Wright the TV series Spaced, the cult flicks Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are elaborate mash notes to the lowbrow, middlebrow and no-brow entertainments they devoured as younglings. Paul, their first joint effort without Wright (they cowrote it, Greg Mottola directed), is a paean to everything extraterrestrial in American culture, up to but not including, thank the gods, Battle Los Angeles.

Graeme (Pegg in an impressive variety of arrested-development t-shirts) and Clive (Frost, his long hair making him look oddly like David Foster Wallace, minus the bandanna) are in San Diego for the yearly Comic-Con. (Meta time: Pegg and Frost themselves were at Comic-Con last summer to show some Paul footage. Someone in the audience got stabbed with a pen. Nobody got stabbed at my screening, but my car did stall afterward. Perhaps Paul is bad luck.) The geeks plan to take an RV tour through the "UFO hot spots" of the southwest. So of course they run into an actual alien Paul, given life by CGI and voice by Seth Rogen in full surly profane rumble. Paul can turn invisible, revive small dead animals, and smoke serious extraterrestrial chronic.

Pegg and Frost have designed Paul as a tribute to their fellow Comic-Con padawans, the ones who will get the multitude of hat-tips to Alien, The X-Files, Close Encounters, E.T. (I think most of Spielberg's first decade of filmmaking is covered here), and so on. The cast list reads like a who's who of modern comedy: Jason Bateman as a determined Man in Black, Kristen Wiig as a Bible-thumper whose exposure to Paul turns her into a libidinous atheist, Jeffrey Tambor at his smarmily unctuous best as a comic-book godhead, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, David Koechner, and a matron of sci-fi flicks whose identity I won't spoil, though others have I picture Pegg and Frost getting up extra early on the days they got to work with her, wide-eyed and effusive, and possibly bringing posters for her to sign.

Paul is not quite up to Shaun of the Dead (few comedies are), but I liked it a lot more than Hot Fuzz, whose parodic focus simply didn't interest me as much. It's not the crude farce some of us feared it would be; Paul in particular develops comic and dramatic shadings. And here, as in Shaun, Pegg and Frost begin with scruffy humanity, then introduce the extraordinary and let the scruffballs respond to it. Pegg and Frost, though, may be generous to a fault here: they give plenty of screen time to their co-stars but don't give themselves much to do, and Graeme and Clive are pretty much the same geeks at the end (except more famous) as at the start. I wouldn't expect Pegg and Frost to deliver a geek movie whose message is that men should put away childish things if anything, it's a very un-Biblical message we take home. (Like their countrymates Ricky Gervais and Christopher Hitchens, Pegg and Frost are, shall we say, Darwin fans.) Pegg in particular is living the geek dream he's not about to bite the Trekkies that feed him.

But I have to wonder if the lads' shtick has legs; Pegg just recently turned 41, and Frost is closing in on 39. What plays as amusingly blinkered in one's thirties starts to look sad into the forties and beyond.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19655&reviewer=416
originally posted: 03/20/11 20:39:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2012 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/08/12 Jimmy Web Literally fell asleep in theater ! 1 stars
4/03/12 David Hollingsworth Irreverent, charming, better than expected 4 stars
6/19/11 Andy very charming and funny..Love to see ET go home 3 stars
6/10/11 Steve Suprizing Funny and Good! A Flick NOT for the kiddies... 4 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles Funny 4 stars
4/10/11 Koitus It had its funny/good moments. Better than average, but not great. 4 stars
3/25/11 M. Rogers I liked it. I enjoy Simon Pegg and have watched a lot of his U.K. T.V. stuff. 4 stars
3/21/11 DK A tremendous letdown. Edgar Wright was clearly the genius, Pegg and Frost like lost lambs 2 stars
3/20/11 holly sines So funny..worth the ticket... 4 stars
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  18-Mar-2011 (R)
  DVD: 09-Aug-2011


  DVD: 09-Aug-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Greg Mottola

Written by
  Nick Frost
  Simon Pegg

  Simon Pegg
  Nick Frost
  Seth Rogen
  Sigourney Weaver
  Jason Bateman
  Kristen Wiig

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