“Who’s up for a close encounter?”
Directed by Greg Mottola
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kirsten Wiig and Jason Bateman
Best friends writer Clive Gollings (Frost) and illustrator Graeme Willy (Pegg) travel to San Diego Comic-Con and from there embark on a UFO road trip. The holiday takes an odd turn, however, when they encounter the fugitive alien Paul (Rogen, voice and mo-cap).
Paul has spent sixty years as a ‘guest’ of the government, and having given them all his knowledge was scheduled for vivisection, but escaped. Well acquainted modern idiom and culture, his image long drip-fed into popular consciousness through his relationship with filmmakers and policy makers, Paul quickly befriends Graeme, eliciting jealousy from Clive. Pursued by the ruthless agent Zoil (Bateman) and other resources dispatched by ‘the Big Guy’ (Sigourney Weaver), they fall in with devout Christian Ruth (Wiig) whose faith is shaken by the existence of Paul and his ability to heal her damaged eye.
Along with the woman who found Paul when he crashed years ago, they travel to the Devil’s Tower to meet his rescue ship, but first there is a showdown with the government forces who want his abilities for themselves.
What’s wrong with it?
Paul rocks a vein of crude humour that isn’t entirely my cup of tea. Mostly I can get past the bits that don’t gel with me to the bits that do – one expects a few probing jokes – but there are a couple of moments that go a little too far, in particular when Paul cracks a rape joke about the mental transfer he has used on at least one unwilling recipient.
The film really has it in for rednecks. It’s like H.P. Lovecraft all up in this gig.
What’s right with it?
For the most part, Paul is an affectionate tribute to a genre that I love.
The film steers clear of the more obvious and homophobic veins of anal probe humour, and Ruth’s crash into liberality is done without suggesting that women have to be virgins or sluts.
How bad is it really?
It’s not bad. Actually, it’s quite good. It is, in point of fact, fine. Just… fine.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Graeme, in love with Ruth and noted so far in the film for a piece of cover art featuring a woman with three breasts, draws a picture representing her awakening. It features a sketch of Ruth looking dowdy with her eye patch, and one of her looking up with open body language and still wearing her modest shirt.
What’s up with…?
- All the characters in the movie apparently travelling the same route and randomly switching order?
- When did Sigourney Weaver become the diabolical, power-dressing mastermind?
Production values – Paul is a pretty sweet piece of motion capture and CG. The stills from the movie don’t do it justice. 4
Dialogue and performances – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are basically their stock characters (one of the things I liked about the hit and miss The World’s End was that they dramatically reversed their usual roles,) and Paul is a Seth Rogen character who can vanish and heal people. Truth to tell, Paul is a movie less about characters than jokes and ideas, and many of the characters are pretty cookie cutter as a result. 8
Plot and execution – Paul is a basic road movie with aliens and men in black. It’s hard to screw that up, and they don’t. 2
Randomness – People keep randomly running into one another, and I’m pretty sure that the US interior is, you know, bigger than that. Also, Sigourney Weaver is evil in a ball gown, although they do offer an explanation for the outfit. 8
Waste of potential – There’s enough good material in what ends up no more than a decent movie to suggest that there was more possibility in the movie than this. 8