Paul doesn’t give a fuck.

I feel like I’ve spent half my time blogging reviews on ones about alien movies. That’s probably unrealistic but damn, is Hollywood ever in love with little green men once again. Paul is at least quite a bit different from the “invasion” genre and more like the E.T.’s and Starman’s of the world in that it’s a road movie about getting an extraterrestrial fugitive from Point A to Point B. I’m pretty sure this was also what Mac and Me was about. Anyways, you care less about what type of alien movie Paul is and more about whether I thought it was any good.

It’s decent. Solid. That’s about the best I can do. It’s a straightforward plot about an alien hooking up with a couple of British comic book enthusiasts/amateur creators while he’s on the run from the shady government who want to kill him and dissect him now that they’ve learned everything they can about him. Hilarity is supposed to ensue because Paul himself is basically a Generation Y super-slacker. He’s Seth Rogen in more than just voice. He’s so Seth Rogen that the effect of the character kind of cancels itself out. On one hand, Seth Rogen is awesome. On the other, Seth Rogen-as-alien feels unnecessary and almost a meta joke on the criticism that he plays the same character all of the time. I doubt they were going for this but almost hope they were because Rogen is not doing himself any favors with this character. But then again, we got something different in Britt Reid this year so maybe he’s entitled.

The fact of the matter is that Paul is less an outright funny move than it is a charming one. You will seldom laugh out loud, but you might have a little smile or a chuckle on every now and then. The jokes usually revolve around either the titular character’s personality or alien quirks, except for when they are referential to all the 70’s and 80’s science fiction-fantasy that people Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s age would consider formative. And this is actually where Paul runs into some problems. Like most critics are pointing out, Paul is so reliant on nerdy in-jokes that a lot of the funny is probably lost on the general audience who would look at things like the “of course!” reaction to the rendezvous at the end of the movie as odd or somehow over their heads.

Your mileage may vary but my favorite part was how upfront Paul is about tackling stupid, backward-ass Christianity. This has been downplayed in the media but Paul is really making several astute and funny observations about ridiculous people and their ridiculous beliefs. Anytime this came up, I wanted the movie to just stay on it and not cut to Bill Hader and that unfunny wanker (you know the one!) who keeps popping up in all these Apatow-extended comedies. The movie lost steam in particular whenever Jason Bateman and Sigourney Weaver have their little updates. Bateman has a few good moments but Weaver is entirely wasted as any more than an overly-teased pseudo-reference cuz HEY THIS IS RIPLY FROM ALIEN 1-4!!! which just doesn’t work at all. Not even when the weirdo hippy lady who first found Paul socks her one and says “get away from her, you bitch!”.

Another problem is that Frost and Pegg are the least interesting characters in the film. Kristen Wiig, the FBI guys, the characters I’ve mentioned, and especially Paul all outshine them and thankfully the movie has a lot of room for all these secondary people. Even Jeffrey Tambor’s super brief cameo as douchey science fiction writer Adam Shadowchild steals the movie for a while. Bill Hader’s FBI goof has a full character arc, even. It sounded like I didn’t like this when I complained about the action cutting way from Paul and his friends to the people chasing them but I appreciated how populated the movie was in theory.

Ultimately the movie is super good-natured, even when making fun of babbling evangelicals. Because of that it’s hard to get too down on it. It’s fun to watch, but maybe feels a bit overstuffed with the references. I would like to see another movie about these characters, one less concerned with appealing to geek culture and people who grew up in the 80’s, but I can’t fault this film for being a love-letter to geeks before being a geek was cool.

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