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Reviews
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

RE: Average at best

I saw it at the cinema today. When it started, I got a bit worried as a lot of the jokes fell flat. The Comic-Con stuff just wasn't funny to me but I think as soon as they meet Paul, it becomes a fun film. I enjoyed it, even the verging on mawkish ending. And I'm proud I got a lot of the references ... More

Posted by Shifty Bench at 23:11, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


Average at best

I generally have no issues with pop culture references, in fact I quite enjoy them, but it seems that Pegg & Frost wrote the script off the backs of their DVD collection. The ridiculously overused collection of references got tiresome very quickly. The 'David Brent awkward silence moments' were not funny. The gay jokes at the start fell flat, almost drowned out by the groan from the audience, Messrs Pegg and Frost are no John Hughes. The biggest issue I had with this though was Kristin Wig... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bill Clay at 09:36, 22 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

Saw it at the weekend with a couple of friends (we're all nerds of course) and I really liked it. It wasn't as good as Hot Fuzz of Shaun of the Dead but it was a lot better than what I was expecting after seeing the trailer.  Liked the bit in the bar at the beginning, in which Pegg has to finish his sparkler drink quickly in front of the red necks. The plight of the nerd, could recognize it all too well...   ... More

Posted by thepluginbaby at 21:22, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


Not quite out of this world

It�s Pegg and Frost, the only thing I could think of when I first saw the trailer was �please be good, please be good, please be good.� But was it? Let�s put it this way, it was looking bad the moment Edgar Wright wasn�t director or having a single thing with the film. We�ve seen Shaun of the Dead and loved it, we�ve seen Hot fuzz and liked it less but still enjoyed it and as for Paul, well, I still have the Pegg and Frost fever. The film has... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by oneangryman at 18:50, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Close Encounter... of the Turd Kind

L: Gretipolitri I left the cinema feeling like I'd had a Close Encounter... of the Turd Kind That's exactly the kind of 'wit' that you are moaning about being in the film ... More

Posted by spamandham at 13:36, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


Close Encounter... of the Turd Kind

Although I don't think its fair to compare this film to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I was at least expecting a similar amount of wit and originality that those films bought to the screen. Instead I found myself watching 1 and a half hours of an extremely predictable story with grown men being hit in the groin and talk of "spaceman balls" (not quite what I was hoping for). It has its moments, there are some genius references to Sci-Fi classics, but with a story more predictable than... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Gretipolitri at 12:37, 21 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Ha Ha funny, just not LMAO funny.

There were quite a few Spielberg film references too. ... More

Posted by spamandham at 23:07, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


Ha Ha funny, just not LMAO funny.

It was good, don't get me wrong, I enjoy an anal probe gag as much as the next person, but whilst I liked Pegg and Frosts characters, I didn't like the running joke of the "Christian turned atheist who now feels the need to make up ridiculous swear words every other line". Swearing is funny at certain times, if used carefully and with purpose. It wasn't funny in this film. At all. I may have chuckled when she first said something, but after that, it became tedious. I liked Seth Rogen a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RandyChimp at 22:13, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

Bill Hader & Kristen Wiig >>>>>>>>>>>>>> ;>> Pegg & Frost ... More

Posted by vad3r at 12:16, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

Saw it with a mate on Thursday and we both loved it silly, laughed all the way through and loved all the little references and cameos... don't think it's Shaun or Fuzz-good but still an extremly fun and funny sci-fi comedy flick A strong 4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by DJ Rob C: Mark II! at 08:27, 20 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

L: keithyt1999 Hmmm, the missus got tickets to this last night so I was very pleased to be going on opening night, but not as good as I was expecting. It's an OK movie IMHO, with some funny moments but nothing that really made me laugh out loud (I did however, "chuckle" a few times). I left disappointed and I'd probably give it 3 stars, its heart is in the right place and I did not find the comedy mean-spirited at all. Of course I enjoyed the sci-fi references (mainly the odd line he... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 19:43, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: good but not great

If it's not as funny as Shaun or Fuzz I certainly won't be seeing it - those movies were 3 starrers.  ... More

Posted by hatebox at 10:55, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: good but not great

Yes it's not as funny as Shaun or Hot Fuzz but there's not much that is, But it's the funniest film too come out this year by far, the trouble is like with Scott Pilgrim people get their expectation levels raised,  i'm torn between 7 & 8 out of 10 will wait till i've seen it for a 2nd time. ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 10:00, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


good but not great

Funny, but the laughter was sporadic in the cinema audience. Not on the same level as Hot Fuzz or Shaun. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Andy9063 at 07:15, 18 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE:

I knew there was a reason I hadn't posted here for ages, and ,having read some of the comments here I probably will not bother again. However this is my opinion on Paul, to set against some of the most caustic bilge I have ever read. This film made me laugh out loud more times than I can remember watching a comedy, let alone a sci fi comedy.Name me any others (other than Galaxy Quest) that are as appealing and entertaining as this one. I don't think there was more than five minutes when the ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dances with Weasels at 00:01, 17 February 2011 | Report This Post


LLLLLOOOOOVVVEEEEDDD IIITTT!!! I was hoping that after reading the review I wouldnt be disappointed (Avatar being the last time I listened to everyone!) and I wasnt. Made me laugh out loud and felt good that I was more of a geek than a lot of people in the cinema! Good start to the year I feel! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CourtneyDayne at 13:55, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Anyone else see the huge elephant in the corner?

L: captainrentboy To be fair I did say that I didn't want to be ] guy. ] I had noted that, it's just something that doesn't need to be said. It adds nothing constructive to the conversation and just makes you look petty. l haven't seen it myself yet though, went for True Grit instead on Monday, wish I hadn't, as it bored me silly. h dear. ... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 11:52, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Anyone else see the huge elephant in the corner?

To be fair I did say that I didn't want to be ] guy. that more reviews have surfaced and it's at 65% on RT, I can believe that Mr Hewitt thought it was worth a 4/5. So I appologise for my outrageous and unnecessary accusations.. Still haven't seen it myself yet though, went for True Grit instead on Monday, wish I hadn't, as it bored me silly. ... More

Posted by captainrentboy at 10:58, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Anyone else see the huge elephant in the corner?

L: captainrentboy Every other review I've read of this has stated that it's largely average/crap... I don't want to be ] guy, but this review sure does smell like the Empire guys/gals not wanting to damage their Pegg/Frost connections. They're also the only review source featured on the movie's advertising./quote] Ladies and gentlemen, these are the kind of insinuations you should not be making, because that is borderline libel. Disagree with the review - indeed, it's fair to say... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 00:27, 16 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Packed theatre laughing out loud every minute...

L: UTB L: hunky_artist Saw this last night with my wife and thoroughly loved it. Sweet & charming, and VERY funny. it was *literally* laugh a minute. Very high hit rate of successful funny gags... and the rest of the audience thought so as well. I've not heard a cinema audience laugh so much, through an entire film for a LONG time. Thinking of seeing this again... I left with a big grin and a giggle on my face and so did most other people too. And on those terms of "doing w... More

Posted by vad3r at 22:52, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Packed theatre laughing out loud every minute...

L: hunky_artist Saw this last night with my wife and thoroughly loved it. Sweet & charming, and VERY funny. it was *literally* laugh a minute. Very high hit rate of successful funny gags... and the rest of the audience thought so as well. I've not heard a cinema audience laugh so much, through an entire film for a LONG time. Thinking of seeing this again... I left with a big grin and a giggle on my face and so did most other people too. And on those terms of "doing what it says ... More

Posted by UTB at 22:25, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


Packed theatre laughing out loud every minute...

Saw this last night with my wife and thoroughly loved it. Sweet & charming, and VERY funny. it was *literally* laugh a minute. Very high hit rate of successful funny gags... and the rest of the audience thought so as well. I've not heard a cinema audience laugh so much, through an entire film for a LONG time. Thinking of seeing this again... I left with a big grin and a giggle on my face and so did most other people too. And on those terms of "doing what it says on the tin"? Ye... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hunky_artist at 15:12, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


Pretty good.

Not their best, but pretty good. Much preferred 'Hot Fuzz.' Looking forward to their next collaboration with Edgar Wright - I think the main problem with this was the direction and pacing were off. But fairly funny. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dogstarman at 13:50, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


Pretty good.

Not their best, but pretty good. Much preferred 'Hot Fuzz.' Looking forward to their next collaboration with Edgar Wright - I think the main problem with this was the direction and pacing were off. But fairly funny. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dogstarman at 13:50, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Paul

Hmmm, the missus got tickets to this last night so I was very pleased to be going on opening night, but not as good as I was expecting. It's an OK movie IMHO, with some funny moments but nothing that really made me laugh out loud (I did however, "chuckle" a few times). I left disappointed and I'd probably give it 3 stars, its heart is in the right place and I did not find the comedy mean-spirited at all.   Of course I enjoyed the sci-fi references (mainly the odd line here and there), ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by keithyt1999 at 10:33, 15 February 2011 | Report This Post


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