Close encounter of the nerd kind...

Paul review

Eyeballs boggling with geek ecstasy, Nick Frost’s Clive Gollings gushes about how, even 5,339 miles from home, he feels he “belongs” at Comic-Con.

Such is the pitch of Frost and Simon Pegg’s first co-written feature and first US co-jaunt (though Tintin shot beforehand), its fish-out-of-water premise giving way to a ready slouch into the duo’s comfort zone.

Paul’s easy-going appeal is also a weakness. Briskly directed by Greg /Superbad/ Mottola, it makes light work of more movie in-jokes, cine-wise sight gags, cock quips, cameos and bromance broadsides than you can shake a plastic lightsaber at.

But it does so with a slapdash lack of care, resembling something spawned over a pint down The Winchester and not much finessed since. Knowing nods come fast as an Amblin-esque intro segues to Clive and Graeme Willy (Pegg) looking gormless with glee at Comic-Con.

After that agenda-setting entree, the buddy boys’ US pilgrimage takes them to Extraterrestrial Highway, where they manage to pick up potty-mouthed ‘gralien’ Paul then tear cross-country in a campervan with ET onboard and men in black on their tails.

Jason Bateman gamely tags along but the Seth Rogen-voiced and mo-capped Paul steals the show. As a CGI alien, he blends neatly with the landscape and co-stars.

As a slob and pothead, he also blends neatly with the comic thrust, in which gags about super-strength weed and penile proportions balance human/alien culture-clash riffs with stoner-satire tendencies.

Kristen Wiig supplies added culture-clash currency as a Christian whose appetite for cocks and “cussing” gets revived when Paul debunks creationism.

Toss in gags about homophobic hicks, Spielberg, Spooky Mulder, Star Wars and bodily functions, and you’ve got the equation you expect: Pegg + Frost + aliens X Mottola = Spaced meets The Daytrippers via E.T. and Superbad.

That ‘expected’ is the problem, though. Example: when Sigourney Weaver cameos, you know /exactly/ the in-joke to come.

Paul is user-friendly, like an old slipper. But it’s also just as predictable and occasionally whiffy, its near-laziness exposed by some half-assed romantic non-intrigue, a throwaway “three tits” running gag and a bit of rote message-lobbing (a live-a-little homily of, “Sometimes, you’ve just gotta roll the dice.”).

As the on-stage climax steers suspiciously close to self-congratulatory, you’re left with a film that leans lightly on our geek-loving goodwill but doesn’t work hard to earn it.

It’s Pegg and Frost treading water when they could be taking risks, pushing the envelope. “Sometimes you’ve just got to roll the dice?” Let’s see it, then.


The geek brothers travel across the world only to find themselves. The resulting road movie is fondly indulgent rather than inspired, breezy but broad and indicative of treasured talents coasting.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • pervertor

      Feb 11th 2011, 12:04


      Bah, you miserable sods, only 3 stars? You need to be probed! With a sharp object. I saw a preview of PAUL and it's great fun! So I will be paying to see it again next week.

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    • GarthMarenghi

      Feb 11th 2011, 15:22

      Given the film's supposed anti-religion stance, I'd be interested to know whether there's any Xenu-skewering references in it as well. Or would Pegg be too worried about offending his bezzie-mate Tom Cruise?

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    • patches89

      Feb 18th 2011, 8:26


      fantastic movie...dont worry about the anti-religion theme which aint a bad thing just sit back, relax and enjoy one of the best films of the year so far

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    • matty2392

      Feb 18th 2011, 21:05


      this film is very funny, but i personally think it helps if you are a bit nerdy and know your sci-fi, i went with people who arent that nerdy and didnt understand alot of the jokes, but they still laughed alot at the film.

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    • actionDALLAS

      Mar 23rd 2011, 2:54


      Wow, paying for it again next week and one of the BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR??? I don't know what you guys are smoking, but i wish I had some when I saw Paul. It would have surely made the film better. Oh, you guys were high when you saw it, I get it now. I know you guys aren't applauding the excessive cursing to try and be funny, or the completely banal antagonists, or the lame action sequences. Even Bill Hader couldn't make this movie funny, and he's hilarious. The only bright spot was Seth Rogen as the pothead alien, and this was not his best work, Green Hornet was much better. This movie was no where near the same playing field as Hot Fuzz or Superbad. I'm being h*****n the film though, It wasn't all bad it had it moments of hilarity. They may be few and far between and maybe I was expecting too much from the film being as how much I love Superbad and Hot fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. I would recommend waiting for DVD.

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    • TheDarkCanuck

      Mar 28th 2011, 20:38

      People need to stop comparing this movie to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Those movies are amazing because of Edgar Wright's writing, directing, and connection with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. While Paul was written by Pegg and Frost, this movie was directed by Greg Mattola who directed Superbad, which, really wasn't all that great of a movie anyway. A lot of the jokes that everyone is penalizing Paul for are almost exactly like the jokes that Superbad had throughout its entire script. However, this film really isn't for everybody, and I'll be the first to admit that. Paul wasn't really meant for mainstream audiences, but rather as a love letter to all the sci-fi geeks in the world. Basically, if you aren't a geeky Pegg and Frost fan, you won't like this movie. It's a rather tight target, but I happen to fall right in the middle, so I enjoyed it.

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