'Paul' a love letter to sci-fi



Article Published: Mar. 24, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Paul' a love letter to sci-fi

Seth Rogen and Simon Pegg star in 'Paul.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are all about turning genres on their heads.

"Shaun of the Dead" was a romantic comedy with zombies. "Hot Fuzz" gleefully paid homage to buddy-cop movies.

Their latest, "Paul," returns viewers to a time when aliens weren't blowing up the White House, battling in Los Angeles or transforming into tractor-trailers for incomprehensible fight sequences that have no bearing on story or character.

It's a Spielbergian love letter to the science fiction of yesteryear, when stories were more about humanity than destroying it. And it's damn funny to boot.

Pegg and Frost, who co-wrote the film, are Graeme and Clive, respectively, two British comic-book diehards visiting America for the El Dorado of their celebrated geekdom - Comic-Con.

Afterward, they'll rent an RV and tour UFO hotspots in the western U.S., culminating in a visit to Roswell, N.M., with Area 51 along the way.

It's near the latter, however, where they share a close encounter of the third kind with a cigarette-smoking, foul-mouthed extraterrestrial called Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen, "Knocked Up").

Big-headed, wide-eyed and an otherworldly shade of gray, he's the archetypical alien seen on television, movies, T-shirts, everything - and for good reason.

After crash-landing on Earth, he was whisked away by the government, spending the next 60-some years as a consultant - advancing science, improving technology, inspiring Steven Spielberg and generally contributing to pop culture. Agent Mulder of "The X-Files" was his idea, he claims.

But now the feds want to learn the secrets of Paul's biology, which means dissection, prompting him to steal a car and make a run for it. That's when he encounters the flabbergasted (but ecstatic) Graeme and Clive, who agree to give him a lift and help him get home.

But there's a government agent (Jason Bateman, TV's "Arrested Development") and his two clueless underlings (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, "Superbad") in hot pursuit, along with the shotgun- and Bible-toting, enraged father of RV park manager Ruth (Kristen Wiig, TV's "Saturday Night Live"), who Graeme, Clive and Paul accidentally abducted.

Hilarity and a fresh take on road trip movies ensue. Though predictable at times, "Paul's" heartfelt and clever writing puts a refreshing spin on otherwise familiar content. With Graeme and Clive, it's almost as if Pegg and Frost are playing themselves, working with material they know oh-so-well and obviously have fun in the process.

As Paul, Rogen makes the perfect counterpart, lending plenty of comic vulgarity and humanity for a surprisingly fleshed-out character that just happens to be both animated and alien. And as a result, the chemistry between the three leads is outstanding, packed with character and dialogue that's laugh-out-loud funny.

Wiig's also high on laughs, playing a Bible-quoting creationist whose belief system is shaken to the core by Paul's very existence, while a guest appearance by Sigourney Weaver ("Aliens") is side-splittingly priceless - especially when she goes mano-a-mano with alien-sympathizer Blythe Danner ("Meet the Parents").

Though frequent Pegg-and-Frost collaborator Edgar Wright ("Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") didn't direct, director Greg Mottola ("Superbad") fits their humor to a tee - honoring "Paul's" abundance of sci-fi inside jokes, while making the humor accessible to all, and not just Paul.

"Paul," rated R for language, including sexual references, and some drug use, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 22 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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