A movie written and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost should not fail! Combine them with Superbad director Greg Mottola and Seth Rogen and you have the makings of a bonafide masterpiece! Unfortunately that’s not what their venture, Paul is. The movie is rather funny, at times, but it’s mostly due to Rogen’s voice work and the endless cameos from other individuals. The problem is this doesn’t seem like a Pegg/Frost pairing but a movie that just happens to star the two. A waste of talent makes Paul a star-studded, but lackluster, affair.
On their way home from Comic-Con two alien loving nerds, Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) stumble upon a lonely alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Paul asks for their help to get home to his spaceship and the two eagerly agree. Along the way they accidentally pick up a religious shut-in named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and are chased by the famed “men in black” led by the evil Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman). With their lives in danger, and a gang of people chasing after them, it’ll take everything the two nerds and Paul has to get home in one piece.
Paul is a deeply funny movie when it wants to be. It plays on a lot of conventions surrounding sci-fi movies to almost be a legitimate parody at times, mainly through the casting of popular actors in the genre. The chemistry between all the actors is solid and each one has their moment to shine. Actually, about 90% of this movie works because of the comedic cast. Rogen is superb as the foul-mouthed alien Paul. His debates with the religious Ruth are comedy gold and his fantastic line to Agent O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio) is side-splitting, trust me you’ll know the line when you hear it. It’s always nice to see Jason Bateman in things but here he plays a great foul-mouthed villain who might not be before the story is out. Fans of Arrested Development will have their jaws drop when he lets loose. Aside from that appearences from Jeffrey Tambor and Sigourney Weaver are hilarious but the true scene-stealer is Blythe Danner as an older version of a little girl whose dog is killed by Paul in the very beginning. Her reinterpretation of a famous line from Alien will be the most memorable scene in the movie.
Unfortunately in listing all the cameos you realize how weak Paul’s storyline is. The movie is essentially “get Paul home” and nothing else. You’re introduced to Graeme and Clive at Comic-Con but almost as soon as they get there they leave, making you wonder what the point was. The majority of the cameos will make you say the same thing because as soon as an actor arrives, case in point Jane Lynch as a roadside waitress, their gone. The movie seems to be so in love with who showed up to film that the story falls completely by the wayside. The movie also has at least three different groups chasing Paul and the guys for various reasons, the latter involving two Southern boys that seem superfluous. The most unfortunate thing is how little chemistry there is between Pegg and Frost. Fans looking for anything in the vein of Edgar Wright will be disappointed as the two merely feel like their going through the motions. They’re just a sounding board for the hilarity of Rogen and nothing else. This never truly feels like their movie but Rogen’s, making you not care about them. The jokes are also not at their punchiest as there’s a need to repeat every joke until it’s dead and buried. A recurring joke about Wiig’s character’s inability to swear becomes particularly stupid.
There are a lot of standalone moments in Paul that make it worthy of a watch; it’s not one you should immediately cast-aside. The cameos are brilliant and Bateman, Danner and Rogen are particularly funny. The sad thing is how flat Pegg and Frost’s characters are, the weak story and the mundane jokes. It’s a rental at best but it’s a shame overall at how something that should have been fantastic, could go so wrong.