Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Review: "Paul": Pegg and Frost just make me feel happy

Let's end on a high note! This may be one of the few positive reviews on this blog to date. This was also a Writer's Craft assignment, and if I recall correctly, I did get 100 on this. But judge for yourself, after the jump.

I really enjoy going to the movies, but to be honest, there are very few movies I watch in the theatre that don’t make me wish after an hour that they were over. It’s just a part of my fidgety nature and I try not to let if affect my opinion of a film. However, the movie Paul, a comedy starring Seth Rogen, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, was one I was definitely eager to see. For a while now I have been a big fan of Pegg, Frost, and their various collaborators. I quite enjoyed the comedic sensibilities they brought to movies such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and their earlier television series Spaced, which unfortunately only about twelve people on this continent have seen.

The marketing for Paul really downplays the emotional story of the movie and instead hypes a story about two comic book nerds who go on wacky adventures with a foul mouthed alien, which really isn’t the point of the movie at all. Pegg and Frost portray English comic book enthusiasts Graeme and Clive, traveling through the American Southwest visiting famous UFO hotspots. The acting pair does a convincing job of portraying even more slacker-ish characters than usual. Along their adventures, the pair meets a small green alien named Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen. Paul enlists Graeme and Clive to help him evade a group of federal agents so he can safely make contact with his mother ship and return home to his own kind.

Some critics seem convinced that Paul really only appeals to people like the characters it depicts, but I know nothing about comic books and very little about science fiction and still found the movie to be quite enjoyable and laugh out loud funny. The film also forces religion to take a good look in the mirror, and personally, I’m not opposed to that either.

What the film does very well is that it doesn’t use Graeme and Clive’s nerdy personas as the butt of any real jokes. Most of the buffoonish qualities are given to the federal agent characters played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, whose buddy cop relationship plays well for comic relief during some of the more emotional moments in the film. I was similarly very impressed by Jason Bateman’s performance as Lorenzo Zoil, who played his character with a dramatic intensity that was both intimidating and just strange enough to play for comedy. In past roles, primarily as Michael Bluth on Arrested Development, Bateman has so often played the straight man that it was a refreshing change of pace to see him play an oddball type.

At times the movie does play a little juvenile, however. A running joke through the entire movie that gets very old very fast is every character’s assumption that Graeme and Clive are gay. Another running gag is Kristin Wiig’s character constantly swearing. While I admit I laughed at this because it really was taken to the ridiculously extreme at times, I very much appreciate comedy that doesn’t rely entirely on vulgarity.

It is perhaps this juvenile appeal that attracts, well, juveniles to this movie. Make no mistake, though; Paul is an R-rated comedy and with the amount of profanity and sexual innuendo, it’s probably not a very good family movie. I was kind of surprised that a mother sitting in front of me had brought her kids to see this film, one of whom looked to be under ten.

Cameo appearances by Steven Spielberg, Sigourney Weaver, and Blythe Danner round out this, overall, very funny and touching love letter to the science fiction genre.