Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a movie about aliens? Is anyone actually surprised? Most probably think Paul is the third part in Frost-Pegg-Wright’s hugely successful and lauded ’Blood and Ice Cream’ trilogy when it in fact is a buddy-movie by Pegg and Frost alone. According to Pegg the idea originated during the filming of Shaun of The Dead during breaks, and it became their dream which they finally realised.
Pegg and Frost play two British sci-fi nerds, not entirely unlike themselves, Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, who are visiting Comic-Con in San Diego and go on a road trip after to see all the important UFO sights. The movie takes already early on a turn towards humour of bodily functions and fluids and does not really rise from that at any point.
Gollings and Willy, a sub-navel joke in itself, are mistaken for a gay couple several times, Gollings wets himself and this is later used to track the duo with the titular alien, Paul (Seth Rogen). When Paul comes along for the ride is when the movie really takes a steep turn South, humour-wise. He likes mooning people, appearing out of nowhere in the nude, and swears like a sailor. From space, mind you. And this is the guy who gave you E.T. and other sci-fi pearls?
Knowing Pegg and Frost’s earlier accolades with at least slightly more sophisticated humour, the inclusion of Rogen in the cast just seems off-beat – why cast an American comedian known for his crude humour in a movie with two Brits who are known for their more elaborate sketches and language use? Rogen just seems too crude and feels out of place with the rest of the main cast. Pegg himself justified this in an interview by saying they tried to go for a less niche approach and go for a more widely appealing movie. But is selling out the right medicine for even greater success, when they have an established following and appreciation in an ever-growing niche audience?
Even with Pegg and Frost, it just seems like something is missing, a piece from a whole. Maybe it is that Wright is the missing piece that would complete the duo and make justice to their ideas. After all, Wright is the director behind Spaced, Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, which are arguably the most lauded works of theirs. Wright may have been able to hone and polish the turd that is Paul into something else.
Talking about polishing, the visual side of the movie is very refined. Especially the visuals on Paul are astonishing and the crew know that, which shows in several close-up shots of him and his eyes. It would be a pity if that much work hours of animation would be unused, since Paul is in most of the scenes in the movie from his introduction onwards.
Paul fails the expectations that were implied by the dynamic duo of Pegg and Frost although it had promise. It just does not get its head out of the bushes, or rather pants, and try to actually humour the audience. Science fiction fans will appreciate the nods to other works, like Paul’s craving for Reese’s Pieces similar to E.T., but even the geek appreciation carries the movie only so far and lacks true substance. Under its technical bells and whistles and spaceman balls-jokes Paul is a pretty straightforward buddy movie, and mediocre at that. Here’s hoping Wright will get them on tow and together they create a worthy third movie to their ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ trilogy.