March 25, 2011

For the Nerds

So, remember how I said in my Tron: Legacy review that all these sci-fi, campy, absurd products are a symptom of the geek/nerd culture infecting pop culture. Now, I don't say infecting with any negative connotation; I sort of love the new cultural norms that have been placed upon us. I only used such a harsh word because it fit with the symptom thing.

Wait, where was I?

Out of the ashes of this new world order, comes Paul, Simon Pegg and Nick Frosts satirization/love letter to nerd culture everywhere! Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul benefits from the over the top reverence that Frost and Pegg have for the genre. Unlike Shaun and Fuzz, however, Paul suffers from Pegg and Frost's lust for blood and, I'm sorry to say, isn't as consistently funny as you would expect coming from these guys. But, this is coming from a guy who isn't as well versed in nerd culture as... say... you! Yes, you, Maxwell!

That probably isn't your name, but it was worth it to screw with the heads of all the Maxwell's in the world.

Dude! Our headlamps are so cool!

Graeme and Clive are two British sci-fi fanatics who have finally made the pilgrimage to the nerd capital of the world, the San Diego Comic Con, after which, they rent an RV and go on a tour of alien sites in desert land, USA. Along the way, the pick up a hitchhiker. But this hitchhiker isn't your regular, precocious teen, backpacking across America. It's Paul, an alien who also happens to be crass, rude, vulgar stoner. He's just escaped the men in black suits and is itching to get back tho his ship, something that Graeme and Clive are all too willing to help with. Along the way, they pick up a god fearing woman and match withs with a pair of rednecks, feds, and creationists. All in a day's work.

Like the last two movies these guys made, Paul revels in absurdities. Things escalate quickly and get really out of hands for these two guys, but we love it. What character development there is is well done, and we are given a chance to care about these people as they tear it up in the desert. Pegg and Frost are very talented writers, and while the jokes don't come as fast and furious as they did in Shaun or Fuzz, it's still a well crafted tale.

Pegg and Frost play Graeme and Clive respectively. They both do the same schtick that they we've attributed to them, but, that schtick is so good, so, no one's complaining. They excel at the snarky, self deprecating, man child brand of humor that would be incredibly annoying in the hands of anyone less skilled. They are very sweet, likable, and very funny.

Kristen Wiig does a fine job as a religious nut who's faith is shattered by Paul's existence, as does Jason Bateman, all steely and dark as a fed hot on the trail of the Brits and their extra-terrestrial companion. Jane Lynch, David Koechner, Jeffrey Tambor, and Steven Spielberg (in voice form) all turn in memorable cameos.

Seth Rogen, however, steals the show as the voice of Paul. Rogen puts a whole lot of heart into his performance, and instantly makes us forget about everyone else when he enters the frame. It's some of the best voice work I've heard in a long time.

What? You're telling me you don't have a small alien in your company?

Director Greg Mottola knows his way around a laugh. He is the man behind Superbad and Adventureland, two of the best comedies of the last decade. He works his magic here as well, providing some of the best humor we've seen in a while. Unfortunately, there are quite a few stale spots, especially in the beginning of the film, where there aren't very many laughs. The comedy really starts going once Paul enters the frame, but that's not for a good twenty minutes. Also, the level of violence in the third act seemed a tad out of place. I mean, I'm used to Pegg and Frost giving us a bevy of graphic carnage with a dry wit to it, but that worked for Shaun and Fuzz, because the films being parodied there are inherently violent. The nerd films that Paul is making fun of? Not so much. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It just didn't fit all that well.

To be fair, a lot of the humor in this film went way over my head, due to my not being a huge nerd. There were tons, literally, TONS, of moments that I knew were supposed to be funny, but went right over my head, simply because I didn't know what said moment was making fun of. However, the moments I did get, were hysterical. The moment where Jason Bateman shoots his walkie talkie, ending a talk with his superior, then coyly declares that, "It was a boring conversation anyway"? HILARIOUS!!! But, had I been more "in" with the culture, I feel like I would have a greater appreciation for this thing.

Paul deserves an Ecstasy, but it's getting a Satisfaction, because I know that you will not enjoy the film as much if you aren't a part of the Comic Con culture that this movie is so enamored with. To be fair, it's a well written, very funny, and smart. But, many of it's jokes and gags were lost on me, simply because I didn't know what they were from. The ones I did know about, however, rang like a chinese gong! Definitely see Paul. You just might want to watch a couple hundred Star Trek episodes before you do.


  1. It's definitely not terrible. I just expected so much more from Pegg, Frost, Mottola and a great supporting cast and subject. Could have been better, but it was still OK and had me laughing here and there. Rogen really does shine as Paul, even though he does nothing new here. Good review, check out mine when you can!

  2. Haha I really dug the final line of this review! I loved the film, and am sort of surprised not many other people loved it too. It definitely seems to come down to how many of the references people pick up. The DELIVERENCE joke had me in stitches, but I was the only one in my theatre who seemed to get it!