Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are geeks from England that have come to America on a nerdy pilgrimage. They plan to attend the world’s largest geek-fest, Comic-Con. They’re obsessed with aliens, and the possibility of extra terrestrial life. That’s why after the convention is over, the two of them plan on taking a cross-country tour in an RV to all the popular UFO sighting sites across the nation.
Not too long after they hit the road in their huge RV, do they witness a car crash right in front of them. They get out to see if the driver is alright, and there in the distance is Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Paul is a wise-cracking, cuss-happy alien who’s just escaped from the nearest military base, and is trying to find his way back to the site where he crash landed decades ago. Paul is a friendly alien, and immediately takes to the two dumbfounded geeks.
Paul is directed by Greg Mottola who also helmed the successful R rated comedy Superbad. It was written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg who have spent most of their careers together. Their most famous movies have been Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Those comedies were made for British audiences, but did well over here too. Paul is more slapstick, and less dry British humor. It’s tailored specifically for an American audience.
That doesn’t mean the movie isn’t funny. Somehow through all its jokes about bodily functions, it’s gags involving military grade marijuana, and even it’s not so subtle jabs at religious folk the movie still seems to have heart.
Pegg, Frost, and Mottola show their love for various other sci-fi movies as they pepper in references from The X-Files, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones, and Alien. These guys know their sci-fi history and they wield their knowledge like honed craftsmen. It’s impossible not to chuckle when Paul nonchalantly asks the guys to pick him up some Reese’s Pieces from the convenience store. It’s the tiny references like that that make Paul so much fun to watch.
Along their roadtrip, Paul and his friends are being tailed by government agents played by Jason Bateman and Bill Hadar. Bateman doesn’t usually play the tough silent type, but as Agent Zoil, Bateman transforms himself. He’s still the likeable actor he’s always been, but it’s nice to see him branching out.
Yes, Paul does travel down the well-traveled highway of road trip movies. The group meets nefarious characters along the way, pick up a few friends, and end up getting stuck in outrageous situations. The difference here is Pegg and Frost know their way around a comedy script. They know how to handle each and every situation and they’re such talented actors that even with the scene is complete slapstick humor, they still pull it off.
In the end though Paul has heart and substance to it too. Don’t be surprised if you get a bit choked up at the end.