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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Seth Rogen (voice)
Jason Bateman
Kristen Wiig
Bill Hader
Jane Lynch
Joe Lo Truglio.
Directors
Greg Mottola.
Screenwriters
Simon Pegg
Nick Frost.
Running Time
103 minutes

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Paul
He makes Shaft look like an Ewok


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Plot
Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are two British geeks on a road trip of the US. Along the way, they pick up an unexpected hitchhiker - a small, foul-mouthed alien called Paul (Rogen), who enlists the duo to help him get him home. But the Government has other ideas, dispatching agents to pursue the trio...


Review
Paul
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Chemistry is not something that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost lack. From Spaced to their big-screen outings Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, the two real-life best buds have formed an onscreen partnership that you could scrape into a Petri dish and examine under a microscope. But that’s in front of the camera. Paul, the science-fiction road-movie comedy that has seen them write a script together for the first time, is a test of how well the two mesh behind it. Thankfully, the chemistry is still very much in evidence. In fact, Paul is a little slice of fried Au.

Of course, both Shaun and Fuzz were directed by Edgar Wright, who co-wrote with Pegg, so anyone expecting a carbon copy of Shaun or Fuzz, or even the final film in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, will be disappointed. After all, Wright doesn’t direct - that honour falls to Greg Mottola, whose more classical sensibility gives the film a looser feel - while Pegg and Frost came up with the idea in 2003 while shooting Shaun Of The Dead; this is very much their baby. And, although there are obvious similarities and clear comparison points, Paul is a different beast, undeniably broader, more commercial and, interestingly, sweeter than its predecessors.

It takes a while for this to become apparent, though - or, if you will, for the fried gold to be mined. Unashamedly setting itself up in the opening minutes as a love letter to Spielberg, with a very Close Encounters-style sequence as a young girl witnesses the arrival of a spaceship on Earth in 1947, Paul then fast-forwards to the present day and an opening in which Pegg and Frost’s Graeme and Clive traipse around Comic-Con to their geeky hearts’ content, before hitting the open road for a cross-country trip through America’s alien hotspots.

It’s a sequence that exists for three reasons: it sets up Graeme and Clive — or “the writer Clive Gollings”, as he’s amusingly introduced — as best mates, overawed to be in the country they’d always dreamed of; it marks out the film’s occasionally obvious geek reference points (yes, Sigourney Weaver shows up at one point, and yes, someone quotes Aliens within seconds); and it’s Pegg and Frost’s way of paying back the geek crowd whose love of Shaun and Fuzz helped put them where they are today.

Sadly, however, it’s a fairly lacklustre and self-indulgent ten minutes or so that feels as though Pegg and Frost are treading on eggshells, wary of any gags that may be construed as anti-Comic-Con, and thus alienate their core audience. As a result, it’s not very amusing, with a hotel room encounter with a waiter who thinks Clive and Graeme are gay looking and feeling like the sort of sitcom Pegg and Frost once went out of their way not to make.

It also highlights one of the film’s chief flaws - unlike Ed and Shaun, or Danny Butterman and Nicholas Angel, who were butting heads throughout Shaun and Fuzz, there’s no conflict between Clive and Graeme from which comedy might be generated. There seems to have been a conscious decision to make them both nice, amiable blokes, rather than have Frost don his antagonistic buffoon costume again. You can see why they did it, and they’re still fun to hang with, but there’s a feeling that the film hasn’t quite kicked into gear.

Then, thank the Lord, along comes the title star, and Paul gets its groove on.

If you build your film around a CG character, you better make damn well sure that it works, or you’re dead in the water. Thankfully, from the second the Seth Rogen-voiced alien steps out from the dark into the light of Graeme and Clive’s rented RV, he convinces.

And if you name your film after a character, you better make damn well sure that character is memorable and transforms the film. Thankfully, Pegg and Frost deliver with Paul, who instantly injects the movie with an energy and humour that has previously been lacking. A singular conceit - he’s an alien with all the smarts in the known universe, yet who revels in home comforts like bagels, cigarettes, booze and uncomfortably tight shorts - he instantly introduces that much-needed tension between Pegg and Frost’s characters as he immediately bonds with Graeme and rubs Clive up the wrong way. Jealousy rears its ugly head.

In fact, in a larger echo of his ability to heal the sick or dying (all similarities to E. T. are explained away in a scene involving the film’s funniest cameo), Paul has a profound effect on every other character in the movie. Like Shaun and Fuzz, Paul is a tight, circular script with recurring lines and motifs that build and build before ultimately paying off - but unlike those films, Pegg and Frost here have been careful to give everyone an arc.

So, while Graeme and Clive learn to become more relaxed and live in the moment (a most un-British trait) as they are exposed to Paul, the supporting cast all get stuff to play with as well. Kristen Wiig, who plays Ruth, a one-eyed Creationist who Graeme falls in love with after kidnapping her (long story), has bundles of fun as she awakens from prim little ma’am to a cheeky minx taking great joy in unloading all manner of inventive cusses, while even the hapless goons chasing Paul - Bill Hader and Lo Truglio’s Feds, and Jason Bateman’s po-faced Man In Black, Zoil - are given more to do than point and shoot. Paul is the little drinking bird who sets them in motion.

But this is a comedy, not an exercise in screenwriting, so what a relief that Paul, the character, is funny as well. A blessed relief, in fact, after the Green Hornet farrago, as it reminds us that Seth Rogen still has the potential to make us laugh. Perhaps freed up from on-camera schtick that’s already on the verge of becoming well-worn, Rogen flies with his voice gig, lending Paul a heady mix of straight-talking sass, laidback slackerdom and matter-of-factness. Whether he’s puncturing Ruth’s belief system (“this God-bothering Cyclops!”), or offering his newfound friends a campfire joint packed with “the stuff that killed Dylan”, he’s joyous.

There will be those who tut at Paul’s, and the film’s, crudeness and profanity, but they’re not looking hard enough. Beneath the surface there’s a surprising warmth and heart to both Pauls that is enough to stifle any protests.

Paul, in short, changes everything, turning a meandering road-trip flick into a chase movie, as Bateman and his goons close in on their prey, that still has the time and the smarts to take interesting detours along the way. It’s also neatly directed by Mottola, who may not bring the personal attachment he felt with, say, Superbad or Adventureland, but who shows that he can handle this type of material in a classical, almost Spielbergian manner. And there’s the rub - it’s a sci-fi flick, but it’s also a heartfelt tribute to Spielberg, something that reaches its crescendo in a plate-spinning final showdown that is action-packed, funny and unexpectedly moving. Oh, and the last line is one for the ages. The master would be proud.


Verdict
Broader and more accessible than either Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz, Paul is pure Pegg and Frost - clever, cheeky and very, very funny. You'll never look at E. T. in the same way again.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Paul
Empire Star Rating

Close Encounter of the Funny Kind

A rather sweet slacker comedy with Brits Pegg and Frost RV-ing across the geek capitals of the USA and accidentally picking up a hitchhiker outside Area 51 – who happens to be an alien. The humour is pretty fresh and inviting – Wiig does a great turn as a repressed Christian who becomes unrepressed – and the film is delightfully cast. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RJNeb2 at 00:02, 31 December 2014 | Report This Post


I wish aliens would come and help Hollywood...

Honestly, really, Chris? Is that the same four stars that Empire gives to Marathon Man and Ben-Hur? Fart jokes, lame dancing CGI lead character, director repeating same set-up for the umpteenth non-laugh.Tedious tosh for preteens and anyone who didn't finish secondary school. Yawn. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by musicalfox at 08:47, 03 May 2012 | Report This Post


Trash!

I can't believe that Empire has bothered to give this such a long winded review and 4 stars! It was possibly the worst Simon Pegg/Nick Frost film yet with humour clearly aimed at 5 year olds. It seemed pretty lazy too and the script writers clearly just thought of trying to mention just about every other, BETTER, sci-fi film that has been successful trying desperately to make some sort of an oh so clever spoof or parody. Completely overated TRASH! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dannyfletch at 21:54, 12 January 2012 | Report This Post


Its alright...

Would the film receive as much praise if we didnt know shawn of the dead or Hot Fuzz. I wouldnt think so, its jokes are not as clever or as fast. Paul just lacks the inventiveness of their previous works. However that doesnt make it anything less than a decent alien comedy film. Definitely one of the better ones if you like. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 11:17, 04 October 2011 | Report This Post


Paul: Review

Paul is a very good film. Im a big fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost acting in films and this is another great film with the two actors in it. There are alot of funny scenes in the film and the story is enjoyable to watch. My only problem with the film is some scenes in my opinion are just stupid overall. I would recommend to go see this film. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 02:04, 08 August 2011 | Report This Post


I enjoyed this. I expected it to be a bit bland and Seth Rogen usually annoys me but the film grew on me, definitely. 4 stars is spot on. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by UTB at 21:49, 02 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: really really funny

I saw this film last night and frankly, I thought it was utterly hilarious! It starts a little slowly  it does have too much gratuitous profanity (lazy script-writing and churlish). I agree with a poster above who said the "conservative christian turned swearing queen" started to grate a little. However, once the gags come in they do fly in thick and fast! For some reason, I thought the kid who did the 'Daniel-san' bit was hilarious and totally worked. I think Nick Frost seemed a little su... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 16:18, 16 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: really really funny

I agree with the in joke comment, in Paul they are just nods to other films, not funny at all. But ziously funny". NO ... More

Posted by kargon at 08:53, 15 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: really really funny

L: kargon L: Zayd Awan There is nothing wrong with this film, what could be changed to the films credit however os Edgar Wright directing because when those 3 get together, magic ensues. eah like Hot Fuzz sp; Yeah, t Fuzz.Smart,hilariously funny with clever in-jokes that aren't force fed and pointless,which unfortunately is the case with Paul. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rubadub at 23:08, 14 June 2011 | Report This Post


Paul.

From the first advertisement (the first of many, many, MANY advertisements) people got excited. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were teaming up again to make the third of the “blood and ice cream trilogy”; everyone was wrong. I told everyone that this wasn’t the third of the “Cornetto trilogy” but they didn’t believe me. There’s one huge difference from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz: It’s American. Obviously, the two main stars are British but it’... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ashleyrhys at 16:23, 10 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: really really funny

L: Zayd Awan There is nothing wrong with this film, what could be changed to the films credit however os Edgar Wright directing because when those 3 get together, magic ensues. eah like Hot Fuzz ... More

Posted by kargon at 14:28, 10 June 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Edgar Wright! We need you!

Mmm, it was okay, no funny moments stick in my mind though, wasnt really expecting it to be great anyway, cos Hot Fuzz wasn't. Nick Frost hair got on my nerves though. ... More

Posted by kargon at 14:27, 10 June 2011 | Report This Post


Edgar Wright! We need you!

Paul – The screenplay from Simon Pegg and Nik Frost promised so much. I was anticipating a comedy along the likes of HOT FUZZ and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, faced paced, witty and intelligent. Instead, what we are given is a weak, shallow movie that relies on the assumption that people who watch this film are morons. The comedy is virtually non existent and it may as well have been a 1 hr 40 minute debate on religion – at times I thought I was listening to a BBC 4 documentary. Since wh... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Scriptinator at 11:04, 03 June 2011 | Report This Post


Breezy

Although it definitely doesn't compare to Pegg and Frost's best work, Paul is quite an entertaining comedy with a twist. Sometimes it tends to be uneven with its comedic tones, but it works nonetheless. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djphilips at 10:33, 22 May 2011 | Report This Post


RE: really really funny

I loved the movie although I am NOT a fan of Seth.  Just think he's icky. I didn't like the Christian "turn coat" theory either, but just because I am a Christian.The over "potty mouth" will make certain various groups won't buy the DVD when it's hit the stores, but oh well, you can't please EVERYONE. There is something to be said that everything has been done by Hollywood they are just rehashing old crud, but I wasn't disappointed, I got my money's worth in laughs and giggles. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemogul2 at 05:27, 11 May 2011 | Report This Post


really really funny

There is nothing wrong with this film, what could be changed to the films credit however os Edgar Wright directing because when those 3 get together, magic ensues. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Zayd Awan at 22:05, 09 April 2011 | Report This Post


Paul (just don't pronounce the l)

The moment I heard Seth Rogan was going to voice the alien, my hopes sank for this film. And upon watching it, I was rewarded with the sad satisfaction I was right. His voice is totally wrong and does nothing for the charcacter. In addition to this all the jokes/homages were VERY obvious quite clumsy. There were some nice touches now and then, but on the whole I was very disappointed. To say that it is broader and more accessible than either Shaun or Fuzz means one thing to me: more American, an... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by magikdethmonkey at 12:14, 23 March 2011 | Report This Post


Paul

A good effort at a buddy/road trip/riff on popular sci fi movies comedy. I agree it takes a wee while to get going but as soon as Paul arrives on the scene it really picks up. Rogen is superb as Paul, the dope smoking foul mouthed alien, and it's a welcome return to form (even though he's just doing the voice). Pegg's his usual geeky self but Frost is a bit left in the cold I felt with not a huge amount to do (expect piss himself - quite funny!). Some really good (if obvious at times) movie refe... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trueborndjross at 09:04, 18 March 2011 | Report This Post


It's not fat, it's power

I loved this film. Saw it on the first night of previews, expecting it to be a bit sub-Fuzz, and was astounded at how much I adored it. I've seen it three times in just over two weeks. The trailers don't do this film justice at all. One of the reasons I like this film is that we don't get to see Nick playing the blundering sidekick, this time. He's a much stronger character with a much more central role. Simon, meanwhile, gets to play a lovably naive Graeme, who is slightly in Clive's shadow.... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rosiedoes at 14:23, 03 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

This is a funny film some of you are taking it a bit too serious. ... More

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:28, 28 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: It Pauls through, just.

L: RossJM ... Pegg's unoriginally named character Graeme Willy irritatingly stating the obvious. o how many other films have characters in called Graeme Willy then ? ... More

Posted by sticker1972 at 05:47, 28 February 2011 | Report This Post


It Pauls through, just.

Good, cinematic entertainment? You can count on it. A good, fresh comedy? Far from it. Paul is full of forced jokes, based on unnecessary vulgar language and ridiculous, hasty set ups. On top of this, the visual gags are pointed out by the characters because they assume the audiences are too stupid to pick up on it themselves. For example, as seen in the trailer, Paul is dressed as a cowboy to go undercover on the highstreet. Pegg's straight-man to Frost's usual bumbling comic character states ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RossJM at 20:47, 26 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul is ace...better than most aliens!

To be fair, the idea of two English sci fi nuts going to America and encountering a real alien isn’t a bad one, and maybe there will be a good movie made from that idea one day, but this film certainly isn’t it.  Although it begins reasonably well with some rather gentle but still sometimes funny  jibes at sci fi freaks s quickly go downhill once we meet the title character.  This is one tedious movie, consisting mostly of film references to everything from Aliens to The Blues Br... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:43, 26 February 2011 | Report This Post


Paul is ace...better than most aliens!

I thought Paul was quality. Its good to read a positive review. You can always rely on Empire. Paul was pretty good on Earth...some aliens were rubbish: http://theweekinlists.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/aliens-w ho-couldnt-hack-it-on-earth/ ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mattybizzle at 21:26, 24 February 2011 | Report This Post


Predictable

Lots of funny bit but the plot was so predictable i was groning at a the end no where near as good as shaun of the dead could have been much more intersting with a script that uses elements that haent been used so many times �� ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bigollytg at 21:45, 23 February 2011 | Report This Post


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