Thursday, 24 February 2011

Paul Review

While Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have recently attempted to build on their individual acting careers, Paul sees the comedy duo return in a sci-fi geek adventure under director Greg Mottola. To be honest, I was apprehensive over the decision for Greg Mottola to direct Pegg and Frost’s own script. Though Superbad may have pulled in the audiences in the US and back here, I had not seen it as the comedic opus many had. However, Paul is a surprisingly hilarious piece of cinema that is truly helped by its cast and well-written script. 

The plot follows comic and sci-fi nerds Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost), as they set off on their extra-terrestrial road trip of America. En route from San Diego, they encounter Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a foul-mouthed alien, who requires their help to get back home. Graeme and Clive agree, resulting in a race to ‘Devils Tower’ in Wyoming ,which many will recognise as the location of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Along the way, they accidentally kidnap religious trailer park owner Ruth (played by Kristen Wiig), resulting in them being pursued by her bible-bashing, nut-job of a father (played by John Carroll Lynch). They are also being chased by the mysterious and serious Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and his clueless FBI agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), who are after Paul
It is clear script-wise, that Paul has been made more accessible to an American audience. Gone are the British gags from Pegg and Frost’s previous works. Instead, the clichés of modern comedy have been introduced. There is the usual childish profanity and crudeness to the film’s comedy, especially with Kristen Wiig’s character, Ruth. Her freedom from the bounds of religious fundamentalism results in a barrage of cringe-worthy ‘cock’ and ‘tits’ jokes. The awkward dance scene between the characters, and the obvious inclusion of  ‘weed’, are present and hinder a full appreciation for the film. 
Yet, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s script helps tackle these foreign inclusions, and is the true star of the film. It is not hard to see that Paul has been written towards a specific audience who have grown up with the likes of Star Wars, E.T., Men in Black and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The endless references to sci-fi culture are astronomical (sorry!), but really give the characters and the film a real charm and produce the majority of the laughs. From Jason Bateman’s character showing a similarity to Tommy Lee Jones performance in Men in Black, to a scene in a cowboy-style saloon which has the local band playing the music from Star Wars’s Canteen Bar scene, Paul screams ‘sci-fi geekness’, clearly mirroring the two actor/writer’s personalities and childhood memories. I found myself on Wikipedia after the film, trying to work out the abundance of references which further helped in my enjoyment. 
Paul himself has been imposed into the film unbelievably well. His stereotypical look (think Space Raiders Crisp’s alien), actually has a creative and funny back-story. Yet while the CGI isn’t going to win any awards, it does its job well and doesn’t come off awkward. Seth Rogen’s voice acting is typical Seth Rogen but brings a different and contrasting persona to the characters of Graeme and Clive. The majority of the cast does well, with Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio forming an early American version of Pegg and Frost’s comedic partnership. Yet, Pegg and Frost come off slightly underwhelming when compared to Hot Fuzz and Shawn of the Dead. The change in director has affected the normally strong, comedic relationship between the two. However they still remain funny and play off well with the introduction of Paul

One issue that hindered my impression of Paul surrounds the barrage of trailers before its release. Trailers have recently become more and more saturated with ‘spoilers’ and clips from the actual film. This certainly affected the first 30 minutes of Paul, as the majority of the gags and jokes had already been shown. Yet, after this period the film came into its own, delivering an entertaining story. 
It is a shame that Paul will always be compared to the likes of Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. And I think this has and will damage the interpretation and the reception of Paul. While it may contain the same two actors and the quirky/ geeky references, Paul stands separate from Pegg and Frost’s previous works. It is a fantastic, entertaining comedy that is helped by a comic cast and witty script, giving a well needed break from the recent bombardment of award winning cinema.

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