Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two nerds looking to have an alien-filled vacation. Their journey starts out innocently enough – a trip to America to go to Comic-con and a road-trip to the most famous alien spots in the country. Yet these two super-geeks find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for when they are pulled into the world of government conspiracy by Paul (Seth Rogen), an escaped alien trying to return to his home planet.
Actors and writers Pegg and Frost are best known for creating cult classics like “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and the TV series “Spaced,” yet with “Paul” they seem to be attempting to reach a different type of audience, one that stoops to low-brow humor and over 50 uses of the f-bomb. But while this geek team is trying to reach a newer, less sophisticated demographic they also manage to stay true to the charm and wit they are so well known for.
Having already worked on films and shows together, Frost and Pegg have a genuine relationship that they bring to the screen. The conversations between them are natural while their bromance is more convincing than most actual romances in film today. Yet it is an actor who never shows his face that almost steals the show from the dorky tag-team. Rogen’s performance as a green, big-headed, foul-mouthed alien transcends the mask of CGI. He gives Paul the soul and dry humor he’s known for while also adding a wise and weary touch to the alien.
With cameos from a multitude of different actors, from all types of films, “Paul” is given new life as stars like Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) and Jane Lynch (“Glee) pop in for small roles. Along with the surprise of Tambor and Lynch is the utterly amazing Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”) as a rogue agent looking to take over the abduction of Paul in order to further his career.
Another SNL favorite, Kristen Wiig plays Pegg’s love interest Ruth Biggs, a bible-thumping, one-eyed, trailer-park-running, good girl turned free spirit by Paul’s ability to mind-meld. Wiig is best known for her roles as a crazy attention seeker (Penelope) or mischievious student (Gilly), but breaks out of her freaky persona for a much more relatable character.
The film keeps the laughs coming with references to other extra-terrestrial-related films like “Alien” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, but derails around the third act when the humorous film takes a turn for the big-dumb-and-loud variety of adventure movies. Explosions, gunfights and car chases take over the film as it loses the heart and laughs that made it unique. Pegg and Frost include action in most of their works, but they play it with a campy edge that makes a joke of the fights. However, “Paul” takes itself too seriously as the film draws to a close.
Overall the film is two-thirds original Pegg/Frost material and one-third action filled cliches.A cast of TV and film superstars bring a more mainstream touch to the otherwise unique film while the continuous stream of references bring a modern and fresh twist to the alien genre. While Pegg and Frost didn’t quite live up to their reputations as cult-classic creating gods, they still produced a film worthy of notice. Even if it does have fart jokes.