by Vicky Fryer
Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are two British geeks visiting America who pick up an unexpected hitchhiker: Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an alien who crash-landed in the 1940s and is currently on the run from the FBI. Hot on Paul’s trail – and hence also Graeme and Clive’s – are three FBI agents racing to catch him before he can be saved by his people.
The pitch for Paul is simple enough: road movie meets alien movie, intended as both parody of and homage to the sci-fi genre and geek culture as a whole. The plot is reasonably straightforward, yet there is just enough to pull the audience in. Some sub-plots do seem underdeveloped, such as a creationist losing her faith or the inevitable romance (although the latter may be because Clive and Graeme’s bromance is the real love story), but Paul’s strength lies not in its plot, but in its characters and comedy.
Indeed, this movie’s greatest success is its titular character. Paul is an amazing achievement in CGI, looking so natural next to the humans that you forget he isn’t actually there. His character too is a fantastic take on stereotypes, marrying slacker with alien, crude jokes and joint-smoking with traditional movie-alien powers and knowledge. Given that the entire film revolves around him, Paul needed to be believable, and fortunately he isn’t just that, he is brilliant. It is possible that he could have carried the whole film if necessary,but the rest of the cast is suitably fantastic as well. Pegg and Frost are as much fun as ever, while more minor characters – from two FBI agents who don’t know what they’re chasing to a glorious eleventh hour cameo – constantly add new energy and memorable moments.
Paul carries all the trademarks of a Pegg/Frost film – pop culture references, male bonding, unlikely characters swearing – and it is still something wonderful. Admittedly it may not appeal to everyone: some may feel alienated by the myriad of sci-fi references scattered throughout, while elsewhere the cruder humour clearly won’t have universal appeal. However, if all this is to your taste or you fancy giving it a chance anyway, Paul is absolutely hilarious: part send-up, part tribute, and entirely fun.