25 Apr

Title: Paul
Greg Mottola
Writers: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver
MPAA Rating:
R, language including sexual references, and some drug use
104 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

It’s hard for me to describe the sense of anticipation that I had before I saw Paul. This was easily for me one of the films from the first half of 2011 that I wanted to see the most, and I’ll take a minute here to tell you exactly why that was.

First and foremost, it’s because of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I first came upon these two on Spaced, that masterpiece of a short-lived cult British TV series that starred both of them and was written by Mr. Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright, who I’m also a huge fan of and who’s the third component of this trifecta of British awesomeness. It’s hard to really describe how amazing Spaced is, and if you haven’t yet watched it I suggest you stop reading and go do that right now, it’s only 14 episodes full of witty pop-culture references and surrealist bits and just insanely great dialogue that you can watch in one unforgettable seating.

After Spaced the awesome trio took their talents to the big screen, and started their Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy with Shaun of the Dead, a romcom film that also had zombies and that was a true success and that had you thinking these three should stick together forever. And, well, they sort of had us thinking that they just might, as 2007 saw the second installment of that trilogy come to life as Hot Fuzz arrived in theaters and showed everyone that these three weren’t one-trick ponies.

Both of those films are probably amongst my ten favorite films of their respective years, and so I was saddened to see that the guys weren’t immediately releasing the final chapter in their trilogy, which is reportedly going to be called The World’s End. Instead, they went on to do their own separate things. Mr. Frost had a role in The Boat That Rocked and a smaller one in Penelope. Mr. Pegg exploded real nicely onto the scene with significant roles in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek among many others. And Mr. Wright went on to direct last year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I have ranked as my 8th favorite film of all last year.

So yeah, they have been doing all right since the last time they all worked together. And even though there will be a mini-reunion of sorts to get us going until they decide to finally make The World’s End, which is happening late this year when Steven Spielberg’s motion capture 3D The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (which was co-written by Mr. Wright and stars Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost as Thomson and Thompson), this was the film that would see us see at least Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost reunited in front of the camera.

So yes, I was excited about Paul, very excited actually. Two of the funniest people that excel the most when they’re together back on-screen as the two leading men of a film that they had written together. And then there’s the fact that this was to be directed by Greg Mottola, who has a pretty stellar record himself, this is the guy that started out in the mid-nineties with the very good Daytrippers, then went on to work on three TV series that not only are unequivocally great but have garnered a considerable cult following: Arrested Development, Undeclared and The Comeback. And then the guy went back to feature films in 2007 with Superbad, following that up with 2009’s Adventureland, both films I gave an A grade to. So, again, expectations were running high on Paul.

But that’s been me going on for way too long about why I was looking forward to Paul so damn much, and not a word on exactly how I thought it finally was. Well, here’s the thing, it’s not as great as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz were, nor as great as Superbad or Adventureland, but it’s still seriously good. I mean, it’s tough to match the heights the former films of the people attached to it did, but this one honestly doesn’t fall that far from it. It has its uneven moments, but it also has quite a few of those magical moments we know these people can deliver, and with Seth Rogen voicing the titular foul-mouthed alien the two encounter, then you can count one at least being a pretty unique roadtrip movie.

I mean, this is a very warm-hearted film in the end (and the actual ending is pretty awesome), one that’s full of a lot of giggles, and that’s pure great entertainment. It’s just fun to see people having fun on-screen together, and Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost, along the many familiar and funny faces they bring along for the ride like Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Sigourney Weaver (Ripley!), definitely look as though they were having a ball just riffing off each other.

My expectations were ridiculously high and I still found myself loving every last second of Paul, loving how sweet it was behind it all, which was a refreshing change from most R-rated comedies of late who think they have to be dirty all the time.

Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost are geek heroes by now, their work alongside Edgar Wright (who’s an even bigger geek hero of mine) has cemented their statuses as such because of how lovingly they homage many genres in the movies they do together. And here, even though their usual partner-in-crime is away, they continue at it quite brilliantly, spoofing the sci-fi genre in a way that you know only true sci-fi geeks can, doing some references to films like Star Trek, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a cool and extra-geeky one to the lesser known Mac and Me.

Paul is an awesome film, it’s not Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz because it really wasn’t trying to be, it was trying to be something more silly while still retaining the heart and wit of those two, which it honestly did. This is a film with a cast full of great people, headlined by two guys that have so much love for each other it’s infectious to watch on screen, and by a third guy who does wonders voicing a stoner alien. It’s pure honest fun, and that’s all you can ask for until we get The World’s End.

Grade: A-

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