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Paul Is An Amusing Picture With A Low Laugh Count

Directed by Greg Mottola
Written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
Universal, 2011

There are three types of comedy in this world: the comedy that tries and scores, the comedy that tries and is dreadfully unfunny, and then there are movies like Paul, which is an amusing movie throughout, rarely trying for big laughs, and never being totally un-funny.

What we have are writers/actors known for Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, two movies directed with flair by Edgar Wright and have a nerdy wealth of knowledge about the genres in which they are riffing, and a director known for sweet and salty movies like Superbad and Adventureland.  Those two movies by Mottola were fantastic, but I found myself secretly wishing Edgar Wright could have directed Paul, too.  Paul is sci-fi nerdy like Shaun is zombie-nerdy and Hot Fuzz is cop-nerdy.  It deserves the balls-out treatment, and Mottola is not that guy.  He focuses on relationships and keeps an even-keel behind the camera.

Paul concerns two British sci-fi/comic book nerds Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) who plan to trek from Comic Con in San Diego to various alien-sighting landmarks like Area 51, Nevada and Roswell, New Mexico.  They run into an actual alien (voiced by Seth Rogen), who has been here for 60 years and has picked up English and smoking and swearing.  He is being pursued by FBI guy Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), and two underlings (the always-funny Bill Hader and Freaks and Geeks alum Joe Lo Truglio).  And there’s an evil government Big Cheese in charge of all this (Sigourney Weaver, whose voice is the only thing that gives her away in a largely unseen role).

Graeme, Clive, and the alien get into all sorts of trouble, leading to even more people chasing after them.  Redneck father and son (David Koechner and Jesse Plemons)  and a bible-thumping trailer-park manager (John Carroll Lynch), whose daughter Ruth (Kristen Wiig) finds herself unwillingly, then willingly, kidnapped by the crew.

There are quite a few funny moments and some fantastic references, not only to the usual like Star Wars and E.T., but to Mac and Me and in a particularly funny bit, Lorenzo’s Oil.  It just feel like the wrong people are collaborating on this project.  It’s Apatow-school-meets-Wright-school, and the results are that the movie isn’t bad, it’s actually decent, but I felt like should have been so much more considering the talent involved.


Comment from Jonathan
Time: March 17, 2011, 4:43 pm

Wow! A “Lorenzo’s Oil” reference? Maybe I do need to see this; “Lincoln Lawyer” and “Limitless” (Meredith really wants to see that one) will get seen first, but I might have to find room for this one now. Glad to see this wasn’t as bad as the previews made it out to be; so much talent involved.

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