Paul (Greg Mottola) 2011

Paul is about a pair of nerds (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) who are on a road trip to the American southwest visiting several alien hot spots.  The come across an alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) who is on the run from several government agents.  Pegg and Frost’s characters decide to help Paul travel up north in order to meet up with a rescue ship.

I was very reluctant to see Paul.  I love the work of Pegg and Frost as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are hilarious movies.  Two things were kind of holding me back.  First was the fact that Pegg’s American movies (Run Fatboy Run, How to Lose Friends…) were at best, mediocre.  Second was the trailer.  Holy crap did this movie trailer fail.  The comedy looked way too broad and seemed like another Seth Rogen stoner comedy.  Now that the movie is out on DVD I finally worked up the nerve to check it out.

2011 is a strange year for me because many of my expectations for movies end up being wrong.  I can’t think of another year where I have had so many ‘pleasant surprises’ or ‘movies I am sure will suck but end up being very good’.  I thought Thor would be too goofy, I thought Super 8 would be generic, I thought Bridesmaids would be absolutely dreadful, and so on.  This is a bit of a tangent, but long story short I was also wrong about Paul.

I found Paul to be a funny movie.  The humor is kind of a sampling of everything.  I mean you get nerd references, you get clever jokes, you get some raunchy bits, you get maybe one or two stoner jokes, and you get some slapstick.  The trailer did misrepresent what the movie was in that it focused solely on the stupid wherein the actual film you get a nice mix of everything.

Warning: this paragraph has some discussion of religion.  If you care then move onto the next paragraph.  There are a few people who are offended by the cracks at Christianity.  Speaking as an atheist living in a culture practically dominated by Christianity/Christian themes, I would first like to give a condescending “poor baby” while simultaneously playing the world’s smallest violin.  With that out of the way I will go back to my politically correct self.  The movie makes fun of a small group of Christian extreme views.  I doubt most people would say Ray Comfort, Ken Ham, or Fred Phelps would speak for them so I don’t know why many Christians would think Paul speaks for them.  Secondly, I saw this movie with a large group of Christian friends and they all loved the movie.  The point of that is I think some people are being hyper sensitive about one character which does not represent the whole.  Hell, the movie has a pair of hillbillies who look like they are out of Deliverance.  Should Southerners be upset at the stereotypes being portrayed in this movie too?

With that out of the way, I will go on to the acting.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (it should go without saying) are great together.  The reason they have done TV and movies for so long is they have a great natural chemistry and play off each other well.  Kristen Wiig, with Bridesmaids, Paul, and even Macgruber, has really come out as someone I like to see in comedies.  I think she is really funny and charming in the movies she is in.  I even like Seth Rogen in this movie.  I normally hate Seth Rogen’s antics but for some reason it all works when he is voicing Paul.  Jason Bateman is not that good but I base that more on not having enough material rather than bad acting.

I recommend Paul to just about everyone.  As I mentioned, the humor is good enough that I think there is something for everyone to enjoy.  It is a predictable movie and that predictability can sometimes bleed over into the humor where some gags are stale.  There is a loss by not having Edgar Wright directing Pegg and Frost.  And if you are comparing this to say Shaun or Hot Fuzz then Paul is not close to the greatness which are those movies.  Paul is though, still a very fun movie and I see myself watching it again soon.

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