Tuesday 22 February 2011

Today's Review: Paul

I went to the cinema last night. It doesn't happen that often, as the cinema costs money and I get all the free movies I like from work. But still, some movies just demand the cinema experience, such as the 3D ones and the over the top summer blockbusters. Paul may not demand it quite as much, but I had a gift card, so hey, why not? And apart from the guy who decided it would be hilarious to fart every time it was quiet, it was enjoyable.

Paul is the latest movie starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, after the British comedy classics Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. Not to be lumped in with these two though, as their regular collaborator Edgar Wright is not involved with this one, he was off making another awesome movie. Don't worry though, he'll return to finish the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, but the question remains as to whether Pegg and Frost can hold up the high standard of work without Wright's presence. 

Paul is about Graeme and Clive, a couple of British nerds who visit ComicCon one year before taking a road trip through all the famous American extraterrestrial landmarks. On the way they meet an alien, and hilarity ensues. The plot sounds a little bland, but this is Pegg and Frost we're talking about, so it's far from ordinary. In this case, the alien is a foul mouthed little dude voiced by Seth Rogen. That's pretty awesome. Together they drive their R.V. through the great American desert in order to save Paul from the secret agents pursuing him so he can go... somewhere. It's never really mentioned exactly where he's going throughout the film but it's not hard to deduce. Along the way they pick up a mightily Christian woman named Ruth, whose faith is shaken upon meeting an alien and who therefore decides to sin it up in the absence of the ever present eye of God. 'Cause, as Ricky Gervais proved before, there's nothing better than an English person working their way up to a big Hollywood production and promptly using it to take the piss out of religion. Right on. 

The result is a good old fashioned chase film, except with a foul mouthed alien who smokes weed. The characters all intersect and trip over each other in order to get their job done, and it's very well interweaved every step of the way. The only problem with having such a varied ensemble cast is that much of the characters' backstories is lost, and the only real characterisation that occurs is within what's happening during the film. But that's really a problem with every ensemble cast, not just that of Paul.

Paul is a much more accessible film than Pegg and Frost's last two outings. All the references to the genre they're trying to honour are still there, this film is very much a love letter to science fiction, but the humour isn't just based around that area. Still, it's fun to sit there and pick out all the nods to other movies that you recognise. The final product turns out to be a very good balance of parody, slapstick and straight dirty jokes. In essence, there's something for everyone. The philistines in the audience can laugh every time someone mentions testicles, while the discerning nerd can roll their eyes and guffaw while thinking "Hey, look, a Star Wars!"

Paul is not without its flaws, however. Some of the running jokes get stale quite quickly, such as the constant assumption by everyone they meet that the two main characters are gaying it up, or the constant rattling off of books written by a famous sci-fi author. Okay, I get the joke, but it's not much funnier the fifth time I hear it. But hey, this is Hollywood. Here jokes are pumped out until their dead, then the corpse is flowered with titties and penises.

Despite this being very much a Hollywood standard production, Pegg and Frost have done a very good job retaining the... Britishness of it all. This isn't an American movie about two weird foreign guys and an alien, nor is it a British movie about two guys in a land full of weirdos. There's a perfect balance between British and American stereotypes, but the landmark British parody of Hollywood as so effectively demonstrated in Shaun and Hot Fuzz is still ever present, and perfectly summed up by the final line of the film in fact. 

All in all, a good time to be had by all. Even if someone's farting all the way through, you're likely to enjoy it.

My rating:

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