This may be a first. Usually movies involving aliens from another planet are either of the cute M&M eating or the conquer and/or destroy Earth variety. The alien in Paul — looking and acting much like Roger from American Dad! — is of the quick witted, pot smoking, foul mouthed variety. Precisely the demeanor of Seth Rogen, who, coincidentally, provides the voice to the mid-sized, cargo pant wearing extraterrestrial.
It’s thanks to Rogen’s everyday guy delivery and attitude (on the surface nothing remarkable, but remember he’s an alien acting more normal than most every human), and the casting of Kristen Wiig, that the latest Simon Pegg and Nick Frost duo flick (they were also paired up in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, if you recall) isn’t a terribly bad showing. Unfortunately, thanks to mostly uninspired gags and homages to sci-fi flicks of yore, and the lack of any flesh to anything, it’s not terribly good either.
Together, Pegg and Frost are Graeme and Clive, two comic book geeks travelling across the United States in a rented RV hitting those, oh so cool, alien conspiracy/cover-up destinations like Roswell and Area 51. Along the way, they run into a green skinned alien who goes by the name Paul. He explains he’s on the run from those stereotypical dark-suited and sunglassed government guys and needs their help to get back to his mother ship. The oft-mistaken to be gay guys agree (travelling with an ET is a nerd’s wet dream, duh) and Paul becomes a mottled quasi-chase road trip movie, with frequent stops and getting to know you getting to know me moments that are supposed to be funny.
And yet for a guy, I mean alien, that doesn’t want to have his brain removed, he, I mean it, sure doesn’t appear to be in a rush or try to keep antics that would get him noticed down to a minimum. (Of course if he actually did anything along those lines, the film would’ve been awfully short). In one stop, the group takes a rest at an RV park and has a run-in with a Christian fundamentalist named Ruth (Kristen Wiig). The bulk of the laugh worthy scenes comes after her subsequent kidnapping, when Paul “enlightens” her by tearing apart the beliefs she’s held all her life. In an instant she happily curses up a storm in the most unusual manner (even at the most inopportune moments), and seeks to have her body ravished. She’s also good for keeping the goings-ons in the RV fresh, as most of what is said between the guys gets ho-hum quickly.
The goings-ons of the chasers is slightly more exaggerated — two of the agents played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio are more interested in filling in their day by playing hide and seek and practicing their tough guy lines on each other. Personally, the movie, already being rather silly in nature, didn’t need these two to further stupefy it, although I will say one of their fates was a laugh out loud moment. Giving them orders and being the straight guy is Jason Bateman; he gives a Bateman performance — solid with nothing of special to take note of.
After the success of their two prior pokes at the beaten and bruised genres of zombie and cop-buddy flicks, I had higher hopes for Pegg and Frost’s jab at the alien encounter movie. The pair may have aimed for the stars once again with Paul, but, unfortunately, their latest offering does little more than hover clumsily about between the ground and the stratosphere — well short of expectations.