PAUL (Rated R) 4 Stars
Director Greg Mottola is building up an impressive resume of funny films, and he demonstrates his knowledge of the loyal fanboys-and-girls with Paul (104 minutes). Of course, he can’t take all the credit. This tribute to nearly every even tangentially science fiction nerd-friendly film anywhere ever probably owes more to notoriously nerd friendly writing team Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
If you’ve seen Fanboys, (and if you haven’t, why haven’t you? Go now. Watch it immediately) then you will know more or less what to expect here. Paul is a road movie that aims to satisfy the movie nerd in us all, referencing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Aliens, Back to the Future and E.T., among others.
Unusual for a Pegg and Frost film, the film takes place in America. In 2009 Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Collings (Nick Frost) are attending the San Diego Comic Con, the lucky bums. After they finish geeking out all over California, they plan to take a road trip across the U.S., hitting all the major alien-conspiracy theorists sites (Area 51, Roswell, the Black Mailbox, etc.). After stopping at a diner run by Jane Lynch, they have a close encounter with Todd Packer from The Office (David Koechner) and the Ginger Matt Damon (Jesse Plemons). Eventually, they run into a little green man named Paul (Seth Rogen). Paul sets his phaser to faint and wet yourself, which Clive does. Toilet humor is hilarious!
The next scene reveals one of the Men in Black, Lorenzo Zoil, (Jason Bateman) is in hot pursuit of the alien. He recruits two local FBI agents (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) without mentioning that the thing they are looking for can disappear at will, which renders their emergency dragnet utterly useless. The Super Best Friends League ends up safely behind the Pearly Gates, a motor home park run by Buggs.
Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) is a little old to still be home with Daddy (John Carroll Lynch), but she dreams of travel. Her dreams come true when she is kidnapped by foreigners and initiated into their bizarre cult of unexplained, yet plot convenient, mind-melding. It doesn’t take her long to begin creatively swearing, although her timing needs work. Naturally, she immediately falls in love with the nerd who is not sporting the long greasy hair (even if his chipmunk teeth are incredibly appealing). Meanwhile, the Feebies have caught on to the nature of their prey and manage to track them to a small town.
After a scene in which Jason Bateman channels his inner Clint Eastwood, I begin to forgive him for Extract. It finally becomes clear where Paul is taking his traveling companions. Zoil is still tracking him, and the Feebies are still tracking them, and Ruth’s father is still tracking them, and of course they all end up at the same farm just in time to head into the climax of the movie.
There are some lovely cameos throughout the movie, including Blythe Danner, Sigourney Weaver, and Jeffrey Tambor. Overall, I liked this better than Hot Fuzz, but it didn’t quite live up to Shawn of the Dead.