Monday, 20 June 2011

Paul (2011) - Greg Mottola


I wanted to like this, I really did. I've had a soft spot for Simon Pegg and his bestest friend in the whole world Nick Frost, ever since seeing them in Spaced all those years ago. Paul isn't actually a million miles away from that TV show, it's chock full of references to those Science Fiction films we grew up with, especially those made by the beard brothers - the original Star Wars trilogy, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The thing is peppering your script with nods to other films might have worked well in a sit-com ten years ago, but all these years later it just smacks of being a bit of a one trick pony.

It's this that made me not really enjoy Paul quite as much as I would have hoped too. The story itself is Starman by way of E.T., alien crash lands on Earth and needs a bit of human help to help him get home. Pegg & Frost are a couple of British comic com type über nerds, you know fluent in Klingon, film quote tees and all that. They're in the States on a road trip taking in various UFO hotspots when they bump into Paul (the aforementioned Alien). Now Paul is on the run from The Man and our duo have to help him, while having adventures and learning valuable life lessons on route. It's nothing you haven't seen a million times before.

Paul himself is totally CGI and and looks fine and you quickly just accept him as being real and alive. He swears and is cruder than the rest of the cast, it's a joke that is amusing at first, slightly less so twenty minutes down the line. Being a road movie we pick up various characters on route, there are some laughs but in general I found myself nodding when I picked up on in jokes/film references, rather than rolling around on the floor trying to wipe the tears from my eyes. That sounds a bit harsh though, I did laugh a fair bit at first but Paul suffers the same thing that most big comedy films do. Which is about half way through the comedy gives way to the drama that is needed to propel the film forwards. That's not to say there aren't laughs at the end, it's just that they don't come quite as thick and fast as they do at the start. On the plus side though both Frost & Pegg have a natural chemistry which doesn't need time to grow, it's there from the very first minute of screen time. That's what you get from working together so often, which is a huge plus.

I have to say that the whole thing doesn't look great either, Mottola with mega bucks doesn't have the visual flair that Edgar Wright had with a miniscule TV budget. So while the script may riff on Star Wars the camera work never does, which feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. It's also generic to the point that when Paul brings a dead bird back to life and is asked if he's ever managed to do that to a human, you just know that someone is going to snuff it at the end and be resurrected before the credits roll. In summing up I'd say this is well worth watching once, but I'll be surprised if it manages to hold up to multiple viewings. Oh and the Wild Geese nod made me grin from ear to ear.

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