The last time you saw Nick Frost and Simon Pegg together they were in Hot Fuzz, diving through the air firing two guns at the same time screaming “Ahhh!” Four years later, Frost and Pegg have written and starred in a hilarious ode to all things sci-fi in Paul.
Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are two British sci-fi nerds who visit the U.S. to attend the San Diego Comic Con and visit notorious UFO landmarks in the Southwest. Hijinks ensue when the two pick-up a rude extra-terrestrial named Paul.
If you are at all a fan of Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, you’re going to love Paul. In the same ways that Shaun and Fuzz were love letters to the genres they were skewering (zombie films and buddy cop films respectively) Paul is an ode to the sci-fi monoliths of the last sixty years. From the original Star Trek to the recent Battlestar Galactica, references and nerd banter concerning the X-Files and Predator is all over the place. Even if you haven’t seen the seminal sci-fi films (Close Encounters, Star Wars, Aliens), the creative deluge of swearing from the charming Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) will keep you cackling.
Who, by the way, looks freakin’ amazing. In stills, the CGI character Paul looks clearly fake, but during the actual film he’s remarkably realistic. Gollum, though a well developed character who allowed us to look past his digital mask, never looked like he was real during the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy; the giveaway being his bright complexion, which contrasted with his surroundings. In other words, the lighting of the natural environment did not match the character. Throughout most of Paul, however, they have somehow made a leap in syncing the lighting with environment and digital character. The character Paul looked more photorealistic than anything in Avatar.
This is also the first film featuring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg that doesn’t include Edgar Wright as the film’s director and co-writer. Compared to Shaun and Fuzz, you can see how Wright’s kinetic sensibilities add the key ingredient to the comedy concoction. Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad), Paul has the pacing of an awkward first date; coupled with his demure shot placement, the directing can’t keep up with the hijinks on screen – it only holds it back.
Though Paul has some directorial flaws and even some forced lines, there’s too much to love about the film. It’s a hilarious, crass comedy which will reward sci-fi nerds with regular references (some less obvious than others). It’s also a veritable smorgosborg of comedic notables (though you may react with, “Oh, that guy!”), featuring Jane Lynch, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, David Koechner, and Jeffrey Tambor.
We’re all dying to see the next Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost film, but for now, at least they have left us some appetizers till they get back together. If you haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs the World, do it (read my review here), and go see Paul when it comes out March 18.
It is amusing that when Frost, Pegg, and Wright can’t get together to shoot their final film in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy that they make separate, complimentary pictures on different niche nerd cultures: Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a love letter to video game culture; Paul, a love letter to all things sci-fi.