Last week in “Battle: Los Angeles,” aliens came to blow us up. This week in “Paul,” the alien in question is much more content just kicking back, having a few beers, and cracking a bunch of jokes. Now that’s a close encounter I can get behind.
“Paul” is a comedy that is enjoyable enough for your casual audience member, but for bona fide movie nerds, it is a treasure trove of movie references that range from subtle and obscure to outrageous and bombastic.
All the nods to everything from “Star Wars” to “Predator” wind up being a bonus as we nerds (whom I clearly count myself among) would have been simply satisfied with the reuniting of stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the two British actors who first joined forces in cult faves “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hott Fuzz.”
This time around Pegg and Frost star as Graeme and Clive, two science-fiction geeks who come to the U.S. to make a pilgrimage to famous UFO sites around the Southwest.
Somewhere outside Area 51, they stumble upon Paul, a bulbous-headed, olive-eyed alien voiced by Seth Rogen.
With the inexplicable vocabulary and attitude of your average record store employee, Paul implores Graeme and Clive to help him escape from government agents so he can return to his home planet.
Various misadventures ensue and a hilarious supporting cast keeps the movie from bogging down. Kristin Wigg joins the cause as a sheltered RV park manager who has her horizons exponentially expanded by the refugee alien. Her attempts to learn how to properly curse is a running gag that somehow never gets old.
Hot on their trail are the dogged Agent Zoil (played by the always great Jason Bateman) and his two bungling counterparts Agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio). There are also a handful of fun little cameos that I won’t spoil for you.
In addition to starring in the movie, Pegg and Frost also wrote the screenplay for “Paul.” Pegg also helped write the screenplays for “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” so if you’ve seen either of those two films you know what sort of comedic sensibility we’re dealing with here.
What is noticeably different this time around is a new man in the director’s chair. Britt Edgar Wright has been swapped out for American Greg Mottola, best known for helming the excellent teen comedies “Superbad” and “Adventureland.”
It is undeniable that this movie has the pedigree for days; the problem is that it has an awful lot to live up to. I think that it is fair to say that “Paul” doesn’t resonate as clearly as its creators’ previous works and is, therefore, a little disappointing in that regard. Having said that, the movie itself is still a whole lot of fun.
Rogan is perfect as the voice of a slacker alien and the special effects are pretty nifty as well because never once do you believe Paul as anything other than a flesh-and-blood character.
When it is all said and done “Paul” is a movie made by movie nerds for movie nerds and while it is often more amusing than strictly laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is certainly the best time we earthlings have had with an alien in a long, long while.
“Paul” is rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.