Paul is a silly and somewhat amiable R rated version of E.T. that behaves like a 5 year old who just discovered a whole new set of four letter words; I am talking of both the movie and the character. The film itself brings together the Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz team and the Superbad team. It is not as effective or good as any of either’s past work. But it is much more easygoing and likely to appeal to a wider audience than their previous works.
The plot is essentially that of any roadtrip-bromance movie with one or two chases splashed in it because of the alien on board. After attending San Diego’s Comic Con, two British comic book nerds (Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) decide to tour the reputed UFO crash sites of the American Southwest. Early in their travels they encounter the alien Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an Area 51 escapee who is looking for a way back home. Paul needs to get to the rendezvous point where his ship will pick him up so he hitches a ride with the nerds. Soon the trio find themselves being chased by the FBI, the religious fundamentalist father of a girl they kidnapped, and two idiotic civilians (Bill Hader, Nelson Ascencio) who are playing FBI.
Although Paul was directed by Gegg Mottola, who directed Superbad, most people will related it to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It is not in the same league as any of these movies. The references aren’t as sharp and the movie feels the need to point them out as if it didn’t trust its audience to be smart enough to notice them. Perhaps they don’t. Humor is an incredibly localized phenomenon and Paul tries to bridge the gap between American and British humor. It is relatively successful in doing so. But perhaps it could have done it more gracefully.
The film is R rated, and it contains as much cursing, pot smoking, drinking and mooning, as one would expect from its filmmakers. And yet it stops shy of really taking it all the way to the upper leagues. It is an ungraceful form of cursing where a series of four letter words are blurted out hoping for cohesion. When compared to Superbad or Shaun of the Dead, it makes these previous works sound like poetry.
Nevertheless Paul does provide good quality fun. Its strongest suit being the interaction between Pegg, Frost and the CGI alien Seth Rogen. Unlike many comedies with a CGI character, the interaction seems natural. And Paul manages to be something more than just Seth Rogen in a green suit. Extra points for that.