I first saw the previews for PAUL at last years Comic Con. There were two things that instantly hooked me from the trailer; 1. It was going to star the dynamic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost 2. Part of it would take place at the convention center for SDCC! So would this seemlingly homage to ‘all things nerdy’ deliver on what it promises? The answer; yes and no.
Paul starts out with two British nerds on ‘holiday’ to America. They start off with Comic Con then take a road trip to all of the historical alien sites across the US like Area 51 and Roswell. In their journey they are shocked to discover Paul (Seth Rogen), a real life alien on the run. They soon befriend Paul and join him in his quest to get home. Along the way, they cross a number of troublesome characters and silly antics ensue.
Paul is an interesting movie that was written by geeks, for geeks. Besides it’s story’s origins at Comic Con, it is abundant with nerd references from comics, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and other Sci-Fi. It’s kinda ‘meta’ in the sense that everyone makes geek references without even knowing it. It’s like they live in a universe where nerdom is so ingrained that it’s not even recognized for what it is. This tension is both hilarious and discredits the storytelling all at the same time. There is a scene where our nerdy pair enters a small town, red-neck bar where the band is doing their best ‘Cantina’ cover from Star Wars. It’s awesome but it’s not explained why nor acknowledged by our two nerd-a-pedias. It works and doesn’t work depending on how serious you are taking this story.
Paul really only has two strengths. The first is the familiar pair of Pegg/Frost. We have grown to love them from Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. There is clearly chemistry with them and it projects on all on their films together. Unfortunately, that is where the interesting characters end. The rest are broad stereotypes like the intimidating government antagonist, Bible spiting red-necks, bumbling agents, and more. Even though this is written by Pegg/Frost you can feel the absence of their usual partner in crime, writer/director Edgar Wright from both Shawn and Fuzz. The writing is mostly flat which makes these predictable secondary characters even more two-dimensional. The second strength of Paul is the inclusion of great nerd references. But the great nerd moments does not make up for the lack luster pacing and overall boring action sequences. Director Greg Mottola just couldn’t bring the same creative force that he did for the witty SuperBad. Paul feels like it travels at about 3rd gear the whole time and while trying to rev up to higher speeds. On a side note, the special effects of Paul were done very well. He filled the space and it was very convincing.
Paul is a modern day, more adult version of E.T. It works on some levels but fails on others. I still enjoyed it just for the sheer volume of nerd references. If you have little pop culture understanding then I doubt you would share my opinion. Just the fact that we finally see Comic Con a couple of times on the big screen was worth it enough for me. So while I would not recommend this to the average person, I would still encourage my nerd friends to check it out.
I give this a 3 Babbles out of 5.