R, 3.5 stars
Have you seen Seth Rogen on a talk show? He has this nervous
laugh that's terribly uncool and more than a little grating, and his stories
aren't as funny as they should be, but he's so darn likable that you gloss over
the tepid jokes and those painful, "Heh, heh hehs." Rogen provides the voice
for Paul, the computer-animated alien that is the central figure in Paul, a foul-mouthed slacker comedy (does anyone still
say "slacker?) about a pair of sci-fi geeks (I don't really think sci-fi fans
are geeks, but I also don't think genre buffs will mind the term all that much)
and their adventures with a stoner alien.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost wrote and star in Paul. The pair starred in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both of which Pegg co-wrote with Edgar Wright. Paul isn't anywhere near as good as Shaun or Fuzz,
but it's so darn likable that you gloss over the tepid jokes and the sloppy
pacing and the obviousness of it all and just grin.
It may sound like I'm damning the film with faint praise,
but let me tell you, assembling a comedy where the lead characters are
genuinely pleasant doesn't happen all that often. Yes, I'm picking at Paul, but I enjoyed myself. Incidentally, you know those
"darns" I used a couple of times earlier? They started off being "damns," but I
changed them because I used the phrase "damning with faint praise" and thought
three damns would be excessive.
The filmmakers did not share my feelings. Paul is stuffed to the gills with cussing, from the
standard "fucks" and variations thereof to some of the more colorfully odd
combinations of swear words you're likely to hear outside of a marathon of
stand-up comedians doing stereotypical impressions of someone with Tourette
Syndrome. At the advance screening I attended, a number of parents brought
their children. Perhaps they saw the computer-animated alien and assumed Paul was a kiddie movie, despite the prominent "R"
rating. Perhaps they were just stupid – excuse me, I mean motherfucking tit-balls
stupid. Regardless, their young 'uns got a crash course in naughty talk over
the film's 104 minutes.
Wanna talk plot? Two sci-fi fans from the UK meet stoner
alien Paul, who's being chased by government types (including Jason Bateman).
They hide him in their RV and take off down Road Trip Comedy Highway 1. Along
the way, they meet a variety of peculiar folks, most notably an
ultra-conservative Christian (Kristen Wiig), whose religious beliefs are
shattered by the presence of the petite pot-bellied alien. She has a mixture of
a breakdown and a breakthrough and joins the boys on their adventures.
Pegg and Frost's screenplay takes cheap shots at Christians,
while over-relying on dope jokes and body part gags. The sci-fi and movie
references range from obvious to delightful (absolutely loved the music in the roadhouse) to Dennis Miller-level
obscure (there's a nod to Capturing the Friedmans. Really!), but enough about all that. I liked Pegg
and Frost as the sci-fi fanboys and best friends. I liked Wiig as the nutty
hick. I liked Seth Rogen as Paul. Spending an hour and forty lazy minutes with
them was agreeable enough that I'll probably do it again when the film comes
out on video. And to be fair, some of the jokes are pretty darn pussy-ass
dog-dick good. Heh, heh, heh.