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Paul - Movie Review by A.D.Harris

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Shaun of the Dead, the movie of a man and his friend encountering a London that becomes over-run with Zombies; the result is a masterpiece which I recently studied in a Screen-writing class for a perfect example of many tools of the trade. Hot Fuzz, the movie of a man and his friend tackling the mysterious 'accidents' in a rural country English village; the result is a magnificent, hilarious and wickedly clever take on many classic British movies and one of my favourites of all time.
And now there is Paul, the movie of a man and his friend travelling to America to visit Comic-Con and embark on a road trip with an alien who wants to return home. The result had a lot to live up to, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's follow up to their fantastic double-act-double-movie mayhem that defined British cinema in the first decade of the century.
The two big differences Paul had even before the first shot was filmed was for one, Pegg and Front were short a man; director Edgar Wright being noticeably absent and replaced by Superbad’s Greg Mottola. The second is that they had left behind their home-land and were embarking on their first tale across the pond. Both of these factors concerned me slightly as Wright proved with Scott Pilgrim last year just what a great director he is, turning a on-paper ridiculously repetitive idea and turning it into a wild and frenetic riot; not only was he not adding his fast paced visual style to Paul but he wasn't involved in the script either. Add to that the fact that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's humour is very British and dry; and Pegg in particular has failed to live up to his name in most of his American movies.

The good news is that I'm happy to report that this is Simon Pegg's best American movie of his career; it is fast, it is funny, it is clever and it boasts a phenomenal cast that probably outshines both Shaun and Fuzz in terms of creativity and character development. Every character in the story is given meaty material to play with from Pegg's Graeme to Bill Hader's Agent Haggard, the script determined to make sure that no man is left out.
So that means that the movie is a success then... unfortunately not quite. I still am happy to say that it is fast, funny and clever but that is the problem; both Shaun and Fuzz were uniquely and wickedly fast, incredibly funny and deliciously clever. Paul is nowhere near those standards and as a fan you have to view the movie as a lesser whole when stood next to such mighty movies. It feels harsh to use what has gone before to criticise Paul, but when you have the same two lead characters with a script written by half of the same people it was always going to be viewed with Shaun and Fuzz in mind.

Looking at the supporting characters Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio are all given so much to work with despite being the secondary cast that they all shine through and add the villainy to the plot with great gusto and force. Cameos galore fly in from Sigourney Weaver and Blythe Danner and all work exceptionally well to great comic effect and even Kristen Wiig's heroine finds enough in her less interesting storyline to keep you rooting for her. Pegg and Frost have both reigned themselves in for Graeme and Clive, not letting themselves go completely wild and at times it works brilliantly but at other times the comic effect that a ‘Shaun and Ed’ or a ‘Nicholas and Danny’ would have found is lacking. There are chunks of Paul which are surprisingly laugh free, and I felt it was not intended to be so. Turning my attention to the titular being, the Seth Rogan voiced alien Paul. Personally I thought Paul was the strongest character of the movie, always entertaining, humorous and feeling like as fresh an approach to other-worldly creatures as I've ever seen. Paul smokes, swears and acts like a human, the clever twist being that he’s been on our planet longer than our heroes. Many clever tongue-in-cheek jokes follow; Spielberg used him as research for E.T during his time as U.F.O correspondent during the last century an example of Pegg and Frost appealing to all audiences to great effect. The only characters that disappoint are Ruth’s father and a couple of American Hill-Billies, all coming across rather dull and leaving us wishing they weren’t taking away screen time from the characters we actually cared about.

Paul’s biggest problem is pacing, at times it throws about twenty laughs a minute then leaves everyone in silence for ages, not managing to sustain the laughs throughout. This wouldn’t be a problem but at times set pieces fall flat and you know that it was written with side splitting in mind. The problem is the directing, Greg Mottola not injecting the fast editing and slick visual shots that Edgar Wright used in Shaun and Fuzz, and the slow style works less effectively with the script.
The good news is that the movie is much more appealing to a larger audience, Paul working very well as standard comedy fare rather than the edgy British angle that Pegg and Frost’s earlier work had. Therefore we can only hope that Paul is a success in the States in order to give them another crack to iron out the problems Paul has and craft an even better animal.
One thing Paul packs is droves is heart, the evidence of love for the subject matter, care for the characters and the striving for a movie that means something shines through and no matter what Paul’s faults are it leaves you feeling great, remembering some very original and clever plotlines and several characters that deserve their place in movie history. From cheeky shout-outs, cameos and lines from Star Wars, Jaws, E.T and other classics it made me remember what is great about the movies when something is made with care and affection. At the end of the day that combination, even when not firing on all cylinders will be better than most of the products that come out of the industry.

So on reflection Paul is great but still slightly disappointing, funny but not hilarious but full of heart-warming care and as a result, I would recommend it for nothing more than leaving the theatre with a big smile and thinking about how many great movies Paul makes you think of.

Pegg and Frost cared about ‘Paul’, and you can’t help but care too.



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