Just going to show that there is hope for the hopeless-at-love yet, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have released their latest comedic masterpiece Paul to coincide with Valentine’s Day. A deliberate stunt against a holiday made up by card companies? Perhaps, but personally I’ve been looking forward to this new film from the Spaced duo for quite a while. And I have to say right away, I was not disappointed!
Paul has been a film on the cards for quite a while, originally coming from some doodles Simon Pegg did on the set of a previous movie. The character Paul eventually developed from these doodles into the wise-cracking, foul-mouthed slacker from another planet this film centres around. Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are two man-child geeks on a dream journey around the famous UFO sighting hot-spots of the U.S. after going to Comic-Con and meeting their literary hero. Mid-way through their geeky road trip in their RV, they encounter a crashed car and have a not-so-brief encounter with a chain-smoking, cargo shorts clad alien named Paul (Seth Rogen) who crash landed in the area 60 years ago. Graeme and Clive set out on a mission to help their new slacker extra-terrestrial BFF “phone home” and get back to his own planet before the FBI take him back into captivity and cut him up to harvest his alien powers.
Ok, so it’s perhaps not the most original plot, after Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz played so heavily on their twists on expectations, but it’s really the characters that make Paul what it is. Part of the brilliance of Paul is that Pegg and Frost are pretty much playing themselves – geeky yet totally lovable man-children who are secretly very creative, funny and talented at art and writing (Clive is an author and Graeme is his illustrator). Even Seth Rogen plays the same character he normally does – the foul-mouthed, weed-smoking slacker who speaks his mind with very little thought or tact behind what he’s saying. The kind of person you wouldn’t really associate with in real life (unless you were one yourself), but you love to watch to see what they’ll do next. It’s not really a far cry from his character in Pineapple Express who he normally plays, but instead of getting samey like you would think, it works in his favour in Paul.
As can only be expected from a script written by Pegg and Frost, there are sci-fi film references a-plenty throughout Paul – everything from E.T. to Jaws, Aliens to Star Trek gets a nod in some way or another, and with cameos from Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch (surprisingly enough not being Sue Sylvester from Glee for once!) and Jeffrey Tambor, Paul is a veritable treasure hunt of “spot the film reference”!
I’d also like to point out that, although I didn’t get it at first and had to look it up, Agent Lorenzo Zoyle is another film reference – it’s a very old Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon film called Lorenzo’s Oil, which is why Jason Bateman does that little double-take as Pegg and Frost repeat his name together, as if he hadn’t even realised it before! It did take a bit of searching on my behalf, but because I noticed how many searches were turning up this post, I decided I should make a point of it. You’re searches are over, people! That is the answer!
The only thing that really faults Paul is that Edgar Wright wasn’t on board as director this time round. Not that Greg Mottola didn’t do a brilliant job with Paul – in fact, its amazing Pegg and Frost managed to find someone as on-the-level with them as Wright is – but I couldn’t help feeling like some bits would have benefitted from Wright’s input, such as avoiding the inevitable Hollywood ending, but it ends up working all the same.
If you were to get excited about any film this month, then Paul is definitely that film! Paul gets an intergalactic 9 out of 10 stars for its genius comedy and effort on all fronts from the cast and writers. Another triumph for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost!