Netflix UK film review: Paul
Ivan Radford | On 16, Sep 2015
Director: Greg Mottola
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver
Watch Paul online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / TalkTalk TV Store / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
Remember Galaxy Quest? Now there was a sci-fi comedy with a decent range of fanboy nods and a strong run of laughs. Paul is like that, but without the second bit.
That’s not to say Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have lost their likeable charm or sense of humour. They’ve just used those to prop up a lazy script. Paul is fun – and occasionally funny – but it’s easy stuff for the duo that feels more scattershot than special.
Clive (Frost) and Graeme (Pegg) are two geeks hitting Comic-Con for the first time. Doing the tour of America’s popular UFO hotspots, they jump in an RV and spend two hours driving past signposts for movie references and sci-fi clichés. Tagging along for the ride is Paul (Rogen), a foul-mouthed, dope-smoking, genital-flashing green man, who likes bringing dead birds back to life as much as he does eating them.
It’s a typical bit of bromance, with the three men bonding over campfires and pot. Adding in Jason Bateman as an FBI agent makes a huge difference: the Arrested Development star nails the line between deadpan threat and comic presence, a good contrast to Joe Lo Truglio and Bill Hader’s bumbling sidekicks. Kristen Wiig joins the fray, too, as a Bible-lover with one eye and an entertaining failure to grasp the basics of swearing.
But the star of the show is CGI Seth Rogen, whose mo-cap performance not only looks good but also benefits from the actor’s natural timing and improvised wit. His E.T. keeps things ticking over, while Adventureland’s Greg Mottola directs with an eye for Spielberg moments and a keen sense of pace.
Still, this is a disappointment for fans of Pegg and Frost. Unlike Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, there’s no character development or emotional involvement here and, more importantly, there aren’t enough big laughs to cover that up; a run of anti-creationist quips, for example, feels rather out of place.
As the in-jokes build up, Paul rumbles amiably along towards an inevitable mother-ship scene. It’s predictable, but you’ll chuckle all the same, because the cast is talented enough to cash in on the script’s best lines. It’s just a shame that there aren’t more of them.
Paul is a string of movie references rather than a movie in itself. Pegg and Frost clearly spent a lot of time going through their DVD collection. They should’ve been watching Galaxy Quest instead.
Paul is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.