Hmm, I've put off this review for a while, as I wanted to see if my views changed with time, but unfortunately they haven't.
You cannot find a bigger fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost than I. I currently have a signed poster of Hot Fuzz on my bedroom wall, signed by the two men themselves as well as the film's director Edgar Wright. I know virtually every line of their Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, their big-screen debut Shaun of the Dead and the aforementioned Hot Fuzz. Shaun of the Dead actually sat in my Top Ten Film list for quite some time too. All of which add to the disappointing fact that I really didn't find Paul funny. Like, at all.
Pegg and Frost play a pair of sci-fi nerds on a tour of America's best-known nerdy and alien hotspots, starting at nerd-travaganza Comic-Con, before travelling through Roswell, New Mexico and past Area 51. Whilst passing Area 51, they encounter the laid-back alien Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who has escaped from 51 and is in need of a lift to a rendezvous with his spaceship. However, special agents (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) are hot on their tales to retrieve Paul.
Hear all that comedic talent? Not only Pegg and Frost, but Rogen, Bateman, Hader, as well as Kristen Wiig, Jeffrey Tambor, David Koechner and Sigourney Weaver (of all people) making an appearance too! This is pretty much my ideal combining of comedic talent from both sides of the pond, as well as all being under the helm of Superbad's director Greg Mottola! What could go wrong?
19 minutes. That's how long into the film it was before I laughed. I was so amazed by the first laugh-less 18 minutes that when a joke did make me chuckle, I had to check my watch to note it. Sigh, I truly need to stop expecting so much from films involving actors I admire. It only results in disappointment. It happened with The Invention of Lying, Couples Retreat, Dinner For Schmucks, and now Paul.
The problem with all of these films is that the jokes were a bit too 'safe' (for lack of a better word) and Paul is no exception. An often-repeated line in the film is that 'sometimes, you have to roll the dice'. Pegg and Frost should listen to their own advice. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were incredibly funny because they immersed themselves in the genre they were parodying. The amount of zombie/cop film references in both Shaun and Fuzz are staggering but they add to the feel of the world they are in, which is something Paul misses. Is the film a comedy? A science fiction? Action? Thriller? It doesn't really know, and therefore spreads itself far too thin. It makes sense to try and appeal to the larger audiences since this is Pegg and Frost's first big American-funded film together, but I felt like most of the funniest bits of humour might have been left on the cutting room floor for fear of alienating too much of the American public (no pun intended).
And speaking of alienating the audience, can I have a quick word with liberal comedy writers everywhere?
Hey guys! Can I just say? Please be careful when concerning religion. It's fine when you mock those who take themselves and their religion too seriously, like Chris Morris' Four Lions or Bill Maher's Religulous. When you start enforcing your beliefs on others, then you're rife for parody. But when the message of a large part of your film moves from “Ha, aren't these fundamentalists silly people?” to “No, you are wrong in believing in God, and I, the writer, am right!” it stops being funny and moves to slightly offensive and alienating. Gervais fell into this trap with The Invention of Lying and now Pegg and Frost have done the same. The main diatribe from Lying was that Gervais' character created the first lie, and he ended up inventing the Christian religion: “Har-har! Everyone who believes in religion is believing in a lie!” And that's all the theists in the audience offended and mocked in one fell swoop, bravo! You are perfectly allowed to have your view on the state of religion in the world, but then so are the rest of the world.
Anyway, back to the review! Paul wasn't completely devoid of comedy. Like I said, it might have been 19 minutes into the film, but I did end up laughing and again several times during the film. Bill Hader was the main reason for this, as his delivery and timing had me chuckling for most of the time he was on screen. I was simply hoping for more of them, and therefore, I was left wanting.
I should say that I seem to be in the minority when it comes to this film. Many of my friends have said it's an early candidate for their Film of the Year, so maybe there's just something wrong with me, but all I can give you is my honest tendentious opinion.
Disagree entirely? Agree in parts but not overall? Let me know your thoughts and we can have a nice little discussion.
Rating - 4/10