Title: Paul (2011)
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen (voice), Kristen Wiig, Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader
Writers: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Paul is a film that has its main characters running away from religious fanatics and the government through out the whole film; so right from the start the film got off on a good foot for me. It is a film that comes to us from the mind of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, two British comedians whom we’ve seen working together before in films like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), hell, if we go even further back in their careers, they’ve been working together since ‘Spaced’ their British sci-fi sitcom. The success of their collaborations has assured us that we will be seeing a lot more of this comedic duo in the future. Up to now, the films that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have appeared on had all been directed by Edgar Right (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) but Paul marks a departure from that norm, it was directed by one Greg Mottola, a director who is better known as the guy who brought us Superbad (2007) and the nostalgic homage to the 80’s Adventureland (2009). Paul is also a homage, but it’s a homage to science fiction films and geeks in general. It’s that kind of movie that attempts to capture what it is to be a man child/geekazoid. But aside from that, it also addresses one of the most controversial themes in history: religion, and what a bunch of baloney it is.
The film starts out with its two main characters Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost). These two British guys have come to the United States to attend their beloved Comic Con, the world renowned comic book convention of legendary proportions. For those of you not in the know, Comic Con is the grand hoo ha for comic book geeks. It’s a gathering of science fiction and fantasy fans from around the world. It’s the one place where its 100% okay to let your geek flag fly high and proud. It’s the kind of place where you are liable to see Bruce Campbell and pay 20$ for a picture with him. So anyhow, as part of their trip, Graeme and Clive also plan on visiting a couple of sites that are considered important amongst UFO enthusiasts. One of these sites being the ever mysterious AREA 51. On their way there they stumble upon Paul, an actual alien who’s been imprisoned in AREA 51 ever since he crash landed on earth many years ago. But now, Paul has escaped AREA 51 and wants to go back to his home planet, and he wants Graeme and Clive to take him to the rendezvous point where he will be picked up by his alien buddies. Unfortunately, everyone is after Paul; even the F.B.I.!
What I loved the most about this movie was how blatantly anti-religious it is. It is not afraid to speak its mind and say its piece when it comes to its views on religion. In one scene, Paul the Alien reveals himself to Ruth a Christian girl. A girl who’s been raised by her religious fanatic of a dad her whole life. She starts the film out by saying things like “The world is 4,000 years old and can only be the product of intelligent design”, but as the film progresses Paul, Clive and Graeme make her see the light. You see, Paul has this ability to get into your mind and show you the “truths of the universe”. All he has to do is touch your forehead with his hand and in a flash of light it becomes clear that everything you believed to be true suddenly isn’t. It was all a bunch of horseshit. Religion isn’t even close to the truth of how things really are and sin was never a real thing. So suddenly, Ruth starts cursing like a sailor and wants to fornicate as much as she can and she even partakes in a bit of weed smoking. In other words, she’s finally learning to cut loose. After her ‘enlightenment’ when the guys ask Ruth if she’s hungry she replies with “You bet your big fat cock I am!” That whole angle of turning a Christian into a non-believer was interesting and made for some funny moments, made all the funnier because that’s exactly what happens when a Christian stops being a Christian. Suddenly, it’s a whole new world out there and it takes a while to get used to it.
The symbolisms in the film where interesting, for example when we first meet her, Ruth the Christian girl is blind from one eye. This is a symbol for her limited view of life due to her religious fanatism, but when Paul literally cures/restores her eyesight and shows her the truths about life, it is then that she is no longer blind in more ways then one. Now she is seeing the world with both of her eyes, religion and it’s often times unrealistic views of the world no longer blind her. She is free from the chains that held her. But as we soon discover her fanatical dad won’t let her be, and so she is chased through the whole movie by her dad who thinks that Paul is a demon that has kidnapped his daughter. This whole thing with her father bringing her up in religion and basically forcing her to see things the way he does is a comment on how many times, what we end up believing comes as a direct result of what our parents believe in. And sometimes, what our parents believe in isn’t necessarily the truth. Think about it, would you believe what you believe if your parents had not taught you those believes from childhood? So these are the themes this film plays with. Heavy stuff for a sci-fi comedy, but hey I applaud it for that, its not every day that a commercial film dares to address religious themes. Hell, this movie is so ballsy that it turns Paul into a Christ figure that can heal wounds, and bring back the dead. Kind of like E.T. did back in the day, when he had a penchant for resuscitating dead flowers.
But aside from the films anti-religious views it is also an extremely fun science fiction comedy. I would include it along side films like Galaxy Quest (1999), a comedy that totally got what Geeks are all about and what makes them laugh. Same can be said about Paul. The dialog is constantly referencing sci-fi movies, mainly films by Spielberg and George Lucas. When Paul asks Clive about the last time he got laid Clive replies “Collectormania, London ’08. Ewok chick. She was ‘Furry’ Nice!” Ha! Hilarious! This is the kind of comedy that Fanboys (2008) tried to be but failed for some reason, not so with Paul. It makes jokes of all those cliché’s we expect from alien movies, like aliens performing anal probes on humans, to which Paul replies “Why does everyone always assume that? What am I doing? Harvesting Farts? How much can I learn from an ass?” As I said, if you are a geek, you will most certainly laugh.
The film also visually references E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You’ll see some scenes in Paul that will bring back scenes from both of these films, I mean, literally copy pasted certain moments from both of these films. Basically, they are kissing Spielbergs ass with this movie. So much so that the man himself makes a cameo in a flashback in which Paul is giving him the plot outline for E.T! I’d say that Paul is a funny dirtier version of E.T. It plays with the same basic storyline about an alien crashlanding on earth and how the government will stop at nothing to capture the fugitive alien in order to study and dissect its brain. Not surprisingly, the film ends with the proverbial aliens coming to pick up their stranded buddy. Nothing groundbreaking there in terms of plot, the only difference between the two films is all the dirty jokes, the foul mouthed dialog and the anti-religious themes. Imagine E.T. smoking weed and making anal probe jokes and you’ll get an idea of what to expect from Paul. So anyways, this was a fun time at the movies, laughed all the way.
Rating: 4 out of 5