Blood and ice cream? More like farts and mind tricks.
British screenwriters and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have made a name for themselves penning films that lampoon generic conventions. The concept worked well in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead — a blend between a romantic comedy and a zombie flick — and the cop film Hot Fuzz (2007). But while their newest release, Paul, offers their characteristic British spin on Hollywood’s formulaic stories, the film is hardly as focused or refined as its predecessors.
Paul details the exploits of two stereotypical English geeks, Graeme Willie (Pegg, playing a character whose name is a dick joke from across the pond) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Coming back from Comic–Con in San Diego, the two meet up with a coterie of caricatured backwoods Americans before running into the titular Paul, a CGI alien voiced on–point by Seth Rogen.
While the foundations of the plot are based solidly upon ET and the stoner genre, there are some mildly surprising turns, most of which will shock the inebriated but bore the sober crowd. The Brits pick up the alien and go on the lam from a professional, foul–mouthed FBI agent, all while finding a love interest on the way. Paul contains some impressive cameos through its run, and they are interspersed well throughout the film’s 104 minutes to keep audiences interested.
Barring the predictable plot, Paul is by no means a bad comedy. It just doesn’t meet the expectations sets set by Shaun and Hot Fuzz — a failure that may be attributed to the substitution of Pegg and Frost’s usual directing partner, Edgar Wright, with Superbad and Adventureland helmer Greg Mottola. The writing also exhibits a heavy influence from recent American comedies, with considerably more bathroom humor scattered amongst Pegg and Frost’s dry wit.
The true value of Paul comes from its spot–on parody of the sci–fi genre, boosted by clever references that come to a peak in the movie’s final moments. Although it may not be as deftly scripted or filmed as Pegg and Frost’s prior work, Paul presents a silly and occasionally charming comedy that will please audiences beyond Comic–Con’s geeks and nerds.
Directed by: Greg Mottola
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Mia Stallard
Rated R, 104 min.