Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use, 104 minutes
“Paul” is a bawdy, delightful alien adventure
Yes, “Paul” concerns a small CG alien, but “E.T.” he’s not and this isn’t an adventure the whole family would enjoy. From the director of “Superbad” and starring the guys from “Shaun of the Dead,” Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s a profane, uneven but often inspired sci-fi road-buddy comedy with energy and heart, though it’s not one of Pegg and Frost’s best outings.
Pegg and Frost are two British sci-fi geeks, Graeme and Clive, who come to America to San Diego’s Comic Con and then trek across the American West UFO Heartland in an old rented RV. Along the way, they encounter an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), who’s been here for over 60 years but is trying to escape before he must undergo more harsh experiments. They also pick up a devout religious girl from an RV park named Ruth (Kristin Wiig) on their unusual adventure to save Paul, who is being tracked by some federal agents led by Lorenzo (Jason Bateman).
Bawdy, delightful and predictable, “Paul” is a sci-fi comedy that’s more comedy than sci-fi, and will likely be most enjoyed by devout Pegg-Frost fans. There are a handful of laugh-out loud moments and the cast is great, though down the stretch in the second act it gets a bit uneven and messy. Pegg, Frost and even the usually annoying Rogen are all engaging, though “Saturday Night Live’s” Wiig (the T-shirt she’s wearing at the first is a hoot) and a few other cameos nearly steal the movie, including a very brief, hilarious turn by “Glee’s” Jane Lynch as a big-haired truck-stop waitress.
Director Greg Mottola of “Superbad” and “Adventureland” handles the proceedings well with the profane script by Pegg and Frost, who incorporate a lot of cheeky sci-fi and other movie references you’ll have to listen closely for (my favorite is one to a 1990’s Susan Sarandon film, “Lorenzo’s Oil”). Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, David Koechner, Blythe Danner, Bill Hader and Sigourney Weaver (an inspired, brief turn) round out the talented cast.
Though not one of Pegg and Frost’s better efforts (“Shaun of the Dead” is still the best), it’s still crowd-pleasing and engaging enough to hold the audience’s interest until the “E.T.”-inspired climax. Also, you’ll want to stay over through the credits for an amusing epilogue. “Paul” isn’t as out-of-this-world original as it wants to be (or thinks it is) but it’s an above-average sci-fi comedy entry and worth a look.
Wes’s Grade: B