PAUL: E.T. Home…run

By Dr. Craig D. Reid

Thank you for making Paul, which tells a “postive” side in mankind’s UFO and aliens tale of two cities, a Dickensonian approach where last week’s number one film Battle Los Angeles (BLA), certainly depicts the peasants of the world totally being demoralized by what could have been the alien aristocracy trying to destroy man.

Then we have Paul, a semi-dissipated alien who fell to Earth, found pseudo-acceptance with the “good” folks at Area 51, where he enjoyed unrestrained attention and the pleasure of influencing American pop culture by advising the likes of Steven Spielberg and Chris Carter’s X-Files as that show’s mascot-like alien was a Paul look-a-like. But like any probe into one’s background (double entendre here, if you get my drift), Paul is endeavoring to redeem part of his life, an event that evolved around his namesake.

So in terms of UFOs and aliens, which film do we want to embrace as “real”?  My vote is for Paul.

Also similar to BLA, Paul opens in the city with the best weather in the country…San Diego, as two innocent English lads from the mother country sojourn to the colonies in search of something completely different as to them that would be to attend the San Diego Comic-con.

But when these two sci-fi geeks, Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, respectively) search for their own Holy Grail, to visit all the major close-encounters of the third kind hot spots around the country, they find more than they bargained for. But like our friendly English geeks that like to seek, we are all free to pay the fee and feel their glee because at the end of the day, everything we face in life can easily be summed up in two words….adventure, adventure.

The adventure, adventure of Paul initially plays like a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby road film, which was as usual to have the heroes run into a woman along the way that pervades some kind of feel-good love triangle where we immediately know who’s going to the get the woman and who’s not. And of course it was Hope that would comically and often times directly to the audience admit jealous defeat to the more handsome half of the duo, Crosby.

Yet in Paul, hope seeks a different victory as along their star trek of the American West in a rented RV (which incidentally we don’t have in England), Graeme and Clive meet a wee green, E.T-handed, elliptical-eyed, bulbous-headed, pot-smoking, flip-flop wearing, cool alien dude named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen, fresh off from playing another green character, the Green Hornet).

Paul had been living the life of Ryan, but now he has outlived his usefulness and the female in charge (played by an actress who is no stranger to aliens) wants to figuratively, drain his brain. Thus with his patented sheep-ish grin, Paul is on the lam and is being chased by a wolf-pack of Men in Black who were not prepared for the colourful (notice the English spelling here) Graeme and Clive, who along with Paul and a potty-mouthed unborn-again Christian lass (Kristen Wiig), they pull the wool over head alien hunter Lorenzo Zoil’s (Jason Bateman) eyes.

Directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland) and written by Pegg and Frost, Paul is a jolly awesome movie filled with offbeat grolly humour that has more pun and sight gag nods to alien pop-culture films than an alien bobblehead doll. For some insane reason this film would not have been as funny with two American sci-fi geeks on the same journey.

There’s something innocently refreshing about a fish out of water, but is actually in the water, the contradiction coming from a pair of English chums visiting the United States. The film’s pace is rather exquisite, and just when you think it might be on the verge of soppy sappiness, the adventure, adventure strides forward leaving that moment behind without coming back to belabor the point.

Although according to the film censor standards of England, Paul would probably have a PG-13 rating, where it would play as is on British public TV,  due to its racy language, drug and sexual situations, it is rated R in the United States. Bravo to the British filmmakers not wishing to NC-17 it for a wider audience, because diluting the movie’s contents would probably remove some of the major ingredients that gives the film its flavour…that being fun.

But along that same vane, it might be wise for the actors not to show up during a screening of the film in America’s Bible Belt, because the nuances of parody and paranormal might be considered religiously unkind, and that is something certain to be cross about.

Yet, in as much as this kind of film could become predictable, there are enough twists and red herrings in Paul to fill a scrumptious can of sardines, leaving you with a good taste in your mouth and not needing anything to wash it down. The payoffs are worthy, the feel-good fuzzy warm sensations abound but not at the cost of falling into an E.T.-esque sense of waif and waffling. 

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