Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen (voice)
Director: Greg Mottola
Ever since 1982’s E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, everyone has wanted to have an alien as a best friend – sometimes a friendly alien is more fun than a vicious invasion. 19 years later, British comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost give us “E.T.” for grown-ups. They star as two British nerds on a pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic Con, and who go on a road trip to fabled UFO hotspots. On the way, they pick up escapee alien Paul (voiced by Rogen), meet trailer park-owner Ruth (Wiig) and evade Man-in-black agent Zoil (Jason Bateman).
This movie is first and foremost a celebration for nerds everyone, a joyous ode to geekdom. Nerds need not be ashamed of themselves, and this film shows that they have the capacity to be awesome. Loving references to science-fiction favourites are scattered throughout the movie, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek, The X-Files and more get nice nods. The best part is that there’s a real story, and good characters that go on a journey and finish the film changed people (and aliens).
Pegg and Frost share an easy bromance that is carried over from their cult hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Their comic timing seems almost synchronised, but they wisely do not hog the limelight, allowing the supporting characters to shine as much as they do. They also prove themselves capable of serious acting during some dramatic moments. However, there are moments when there’s a rift between their style of humour and the more accessible, crasser material that Superbad director Mottola brings to the table.
Kristen Wiig makes for an interesting love interest as the one-eyed Ruth, but the film attempts to deal with the theme of science vs. religion and gets a little wobbly there. Jason Bateman is an interesting casting choice as the steely and no-nonsense Agent Zoil and Sigourney Weaver is actually quite scary as his boss, “The Big Man”. Watch out for the obligatory Aliens reference.
Seth Rogen’s laid back voice is a good fit for the foul-mouthed, pot-smoking Paul. The thing that’s interesting is that not only has Paul been influenced by our pop culture, he’s made his mark on it too, hence a scene where he advises Steven Spielberg via telephone about the special abilities he should give to E.T. The visual effects work is commendable, Paul seeming like a real character and possessing very expressive, liquid eyes.
Even for those who aren’t sci-fi aficionados, Paul is a genuinely funny joyride packed with a good amount of belly-laughs. Of course, it helps a little if you know your pop culture references, but the enjoyment isn’t contingent on that.
SUMMARY: An ode to the joys of being a nerd, Paul is carried by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s chemistry. It’s a whooping good time and is one of the better comedies this year so far.
RATING: 3.5/5 STARS