By Elena Cresci
Dynamic duo Nick Frost and Simon Pegg finally return to the big screen in 2011 with sci-fi extravaganza Paul. As filming progressed last year, the team behind Paul posted vlogs on YouTube, ensuring that the talk around the film was ongoing months before its Valentine’s Day release. Without their old pal Edgar Wright involved and Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) helming the film instead, is Paul just as good as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead?
Pegg and Frost play British comic book geeks Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings on their first trip to America, where their plans aren’t limited to Comic Con alone. The two set off on a trip around the alien landmarks of the US in a vintage camper van, never truly expecting much from their extraterrestrial pilgrimage. Their trip takes a turn into the unexpected when they encounter Paul, an alien escaped from Area 51, and are coerced into helping him return home. What follows is an adventure that neither Graeme nor Clive could have anticipated, as they find themselves on the run from the FBI and accidentally kidnapping the shy God-fearing Ruth, played by Kristen Wiig.
Those expecting a stellar screenplay from Frost and Pegg will not be disappointed; the film has laughs aplenty and geeky references galore. Much in the way that Shaun of the Dead took a different look at zombie films and Hot Fuzz presented a unique take on classic cop films, Paul brings something new to the sci-fi genre. Those who were worried that the American actors, director and setting would ruin the classic Pegg-Frost dynamic needn’t have fretted. The actors cast work so well within their roles that you barely notice that this isn’t the duo’s normal territory.
In fact, it’s highly enjoyable to see giants from the world of American comedy pop up throughout the film, from Jane Lynch of Glee and 40 Year Old Virgin fame to Bill Hader and Joe Le Truglio as a pair of inept FBI officials. I’m sure many sci-fi fans squealed with glee when they recognised Sigourney Weaver’s voice early on in the film. The cast have clearly been well chosen and are a credit to the film as a whole.
Seth Rogen’s voice acting as the titular character’s role is particularly notable. His voice works so well as the stoner, wisecracking alien Paul. There’s also much to be said for the CGI used to bring him to life. You know the special effects are good when you forget while watching the film that this little green guy was added in post production. Not to mention that the live action and the computer-generated characters of the film interact seamlessly with one another, making for some highly entertaining sequences.
As enjoyable as the film is though, there were unfortunately times when it was just a little bit predictable. There are moments when something that is clearly a key plot point is mentioned, and you just know that it will prove to be important later on. This predictability may grate on some people’s nerves, particularly those who enjoyed the final twist in Hot Fuzz. Additionally, is anyone else sick of Pegg always getting the girl? Surely it’s Frost’s turn to play a character with a romantic interest.
Despite this, it’s hard to find a fault with the film which seriously affects its enjoyability. It’s easy to watch and doesn’t take itself too seriously. For me, it was the perfect antidote to the standard soppy and romantic films which tend to come out on Valentine’s Day. Predictability aside, this is another tremendous offering from the Pegg-Frost team. There’s only one thing to ask now… when are they making a start on the final part of the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy?
8 OUT OF 10