Who’s up for a close encounter?
The tag-team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (”Hot Fuzz”, ”Shaun of the Dead”) join forces with director Greg Mottola (”Superbad”, ”Adventureland”) to bring you ”Paul”, an epic adventure one million light years in the making.
For the past 60 years, an extra-terrestrial named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. When Paul discovers his services are no longer needed by the federal government, the intergalactic smart ass escapes Area 51 and catches a ride out of town with Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), two sci-fi geeks on a pilgrimage to America’s UFO heartland.
If ”Shaun of the Dead” was a tribute to the Zombie genre, and ”Hot Fuzz” an ode to the balls-out buddy cop action flick, then ”Paul” is most certainly a love letter to Steven Spielberg. The film is filled with references from ”E.T”., ”Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, and even ”Duel”.
While the script is filled with inside geek-cred references about ”Star Wars”, ”Star Trek”, ”Aliens” and even ”Mac and Me” (yes, that”Mac and Me”), Mottola’s direction is packed with references to Spielberg’s earlier work, including shooting stars and ”Duel”-inspired car chases and camera angles.
Personally, I really enjoyed Paul – but that’s probably because I got every single reference Clive and Graeme made. I can imagine less geeky audiences will be left out on the fun at times, left to rely on Rogen’s titular character, who manages to be a completely cynical smart ass and yet warm and endearing to his friends and the audience.
It’s a cute little film. I won’t say it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, nor would I say it’s the best Mottola or the dynamic duo of Pegg and Frost have produced thus far, but it’s a worthy entry into the annals of geek cinema. It’s popcorn fun – pure entertainment, and while not as sharp-witted and concise as Superbad or ”Shaun of the Dead”, ”Paul” is lightyears ahead of the competition. I mean seriously, what are you going to watch – ”Mars Needs Moms”? I don’t think so.
Bottom Line: A great cast and an entertaining story filled with little obscure references for diehard sci-fi nerds and Roswell aficionados to dissect and enjoy. I can’t help but wonder, however, how much better this film may have been with Edgar Wright at the wheel of an RV, barreling down the highway to Area 51.
* I’ll be adding some audio from my exclusive sit-down with Greg Mottola, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost soon, so be on the look out for that!
SxSW additional content courtesy of Mike D’Avria and Tim Grant