Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 23, 2013
OVERVIEW: The 2011 science-fiction/comedy, “Paul,” was directed by Greg Mottola and co-written by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Seth Rogen. Inspired by their mutual adoration for Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Pegg and Frost first conceived the premise for “Paul” while on the set of “Shaun of the Dead” in 2003. “Paul” allowed its creators the opportunity to incorporate numerous references from their favorite sci-fi movies. Steven Spielberg, himself, makes a cameo appearance in the film during a “flashback to the 80s” scene; his voice is heard discussing ideas for the upcoming release of “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,” retroactively insinuating that Paul, the alien, was the actual inspiration for E.T. The film has been received positively by critics and audiences alike; it currently holds a 71% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Personally, I wouldn’t count “Paul” among its writers’ best or funniest works (I’d name “Hot Fuzz as #1), but I do think it fits in well with Pegg and Frost’s previous comedies. What sets “Paul” apart is that it utilizes a more dynamic storyline than is generally used by its creators. In some ways, the more intricate plotting grants “Paul” greater distinction and credit as a film than, say, “Shaun of the Dead,” but this element also detracts from the ‘silliness’ Pegg and Frost fans have come to expect from their movies. All-in-all, I’m happy to have “Paul” in my collection of DVDs.
STARRING ROLES: Seth Rogen as the voice of Paul, Simon Pegg as Graeme Willy, Nick Frost as Clive Gollings, Kristen Wiig as Ruth Buggs, Jason Bateman as Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil, Bill Hader as Agent Haggard, Jane Lynch as Pat Stevens, Blythe Danner as Tara Walton, Joe Lo Truglio as Agent O’Reilly, David Koechner as Gus, Sigourney Weaver as “The Big Guy,” Jeffrey Tambor as famous sci-fi writer Adam Shadowchild, and John Carroll Lynch as Moses Buggs.
SPECIAL FEATURES: (1-disc/Unrated/214-min. Run-Time/ASIN: B0050PYNP8)
▪ Filmmakers’ Commentary with Greg Mottola, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Hader, and Nira Park
▪ The Evolution of Paul
▪ Simon’s Silly Faces
▪ Who the Hell is Adam Shadowchild?
▪ Galleries and Credits
SUMMARY: For the better part of a century, the U.S. government has been holding an extraterrestrial by the name of Paul as a hostage. We learn that many of the 20th Century’s greatest technological advancements were not the products of humans at all, but were rather the fruits of Paul’s willingness to share information with his captors in exchange for being allowed to live. When Paul’s “usefulness” runs dry, the government decides to kill him in order to harvest his brain and, hopefully, discover how to incorporate some of Paul’s unique physical abilities (invisibility camouflage and healing powers) into the human genome. With the help of a friend inside the agency, Paul contacts his home planet to send a rescue ship to Earth; he flees the secret government base in a stolen vehicle.
Two British tourists, Graeme and Clive, are on an RV trip visiting some of the U.S.’s most famous ‘close-encounter’ sites. When Paul speeds past the RV, then crashes, Graeme and Clive pull over to check on the motorist. Fascinated at the chance to meet a real alien, Graeme offers Paul a ride. The trio stops for a layover at Moses Buggs’ RV park; Moses and his daughter, Ruth (who wears an eye-patch to conceal a blind eye), are devout fundamentalist Christians.
Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil arrives at the scene of Paul’s wrecked vehicle. He informs his boss, “The Big Guy,” that he’s picked up Paul’s trail; in order to resolve the matter as quickly and quietly as possible, “The Big Guy” attaches two additional agents, Haggard and O’Reilly, to the case.
While collecting the campers’ fee, Ruth engages in a heated theological debate aboard Clive and Graeme’s RV. After losing patience with Ruth’s ignorance, Paul reveals himself to her and later, via telepathy, shares his knowledge of the universe with Ruth. When Moses discovers Paul, he presumes him to be a demon and chases the campers out of the park with his shotgun. Ruth, torn between her father’s faith and knowledge of the outside world, is now along for the ride in the RV; Paul uses his healing powers to repair Ruth’s eye and, in the process, gains her trust.
The remainder of the movie centers around concealing Paul from the public, evading the agents pursuing Paul, and making it to the rendezvous point so that Paul may be rescued. There are a lot of laughs, some ‘eye-opening’ moments, and a few twists along the way, so I won’t spoil anything!