Only one film for review this week: Paul is the third feature to be written by and star Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, responsible for two of my favourite films of the last decade, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time around they’re not joined by director Edgar Wright (busy with his own Scott Pilgrim picture from last year) and the flick is directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad).
Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, two very English sci-fi and comic book fans on a dream holiday: Comic-Con in San Diego then rent an RV and drive to the most famous UFO sites in the States (Area 51, Roswell New Mexico, etc.) While nerding it happily around the place they witness a car crash and discover the only survivor is a three foot tall alien (big head, big eyes) named Paul. He’s a wise-cracking smart-ass with the entirely appropriate voice of Seth Rogen and he’s been enjoying the hospitality of the US government for fifty years until they finally decide to cut him up to see how his brain works. So he escapes.
Of course, the G‑Men are after him which means they are also after Graeme and Clive and the result is a very funny, very sweet, road movie with plenty of amusing detail for movie buffs (like me) and more than enough vanilla gags for the rest.
Pegg plays a minor variation of his usual weak-guy-finds-strength character (cf Run Fatboy Run, Shaun, etc.) but Frost does a particularly nice job of breaking away from his usual oafish type and does a remarkably sensitive job. Of particular note is the very good use made of the talented comedienne Kristen Wiig. She gets a well deserved leading role as a (actually and metaphorically) one-eyed born-again whose life is transformed by Paul’s finger (hard to explain, you really have to be there).
Unlike their collaborations with Wright, this particular Pegg-Frost picture doesn’t reinvent cinema but it does honour it and that’s worth plenty in my book.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 6 April, 2011.
An extra thought: I’ve been getting Kristen Wiig and Kristen Schaal’s names mixed up for years. Won’t be making that mistake again.