By Gary Murray


Starring Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Seth Rogan, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, David Koechner and Sigourney Weaver


Written by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg


Directed by Greg Mottola


Running time 104 min


MPAA Rating PG-13


Selig Film Rating:  FULL PRICE


Bug-eyed sci-fi movies have always held a soft spot in my heart.  Tales of aliens, monsters and space ships carry a fascination of not only what can be accomplished but also what can be imagined.  If one looks at the box office over the last few decades, the general audience agrees with that passion for stories of the futuristic imagination.  But, there have been very few successful comedies in the sci-fi vein.   The two genres never seem to work together and most end-up like Space Balls or Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, not as successful as one would hope.  The new comedy Paul shatters the myth that the two genres cannot work together.


The story starts at Comic-Con, that California beacon for sci-fi geeks.   Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are basking in the glow of being around their element.  The two Brits are also artists with Graeme an illustrator and Clive a writer.  They worked together on a science fiction epic with a triple-breasted heroine (shades of Douglas Adams).


After the con, the duo decides to tour in a rented RV all the famous extra-terrestrial sites.  On the way to Area 51, they witness a car wreck.  Inside the hunk of metal is an alien named Paul (CGI character voiced by Seth Rogan).  It seems that Paul has been trapped in Area 51 for 60 years, learning about the culture through television.  He has decided to make his escape and try to get back to his people.


As the shocked Graeme and Clive decide to help him out, the US forces that have kept Paul in confinement are not going to let him go so easily.  The big boss (Sigourney Weaver) sends Special Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) to bring back Paul, dead or alive.  He recruits two locals (Bill Hader and David Koechner) to help him on the search.  The locals have no idea that they are searching for an ET.


The road trip to the evacuation point is an eye-opening experience for Graeme and Clive as they learn just how different Paul is and how much of earth culture he has absorbed along the way.   In their journey, they inadvertently kidnap a young woman (Kristen Wiig) and bring the ire of her bible-thumping father.  It all builds to a giant confrontation in the wilds of the North.


This film is manna for the science fiction fan.  There are references upon references to both the classic and the obscure science fiction film.  There are jokes within Paul from such diverse fantasy flicks as X-Files, ET, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Forbidden Planet and Aliens.  One almost has to have a PhD in Science Fiction Film just to catch all the references.  It is both a loving send-up and bowed homage to the great fantastic films of the last few decades.  Writers Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have done their homework in crafting this script, poking fun at all the clichés of mainstream science fiction films.  It is a geeky joy to watch Paul.


As actors, Simon and Nick are just getting better and better.  With their third outing, they are becoming the go-to guys in humor cinema.  They are becoming the comedy duo of the decade, much like Hope and Crosby or Martin and Lewis.  Where Simon finds that shocked double-take with his eyes and manners, Nick is the loveable man-child, bumbling along more like Lou Costello or Chris Farley.  Together they are unstoppable in delivering comedy.


Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are also the creative geniuses of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two great films with solid comedy and over-the-top silliness.  Here they come close to topping themselves, making one of the best comedies of the year.


The basic question I ask myself when I make my Top Ten list for the year is "Will I buy it on DVD?"  Paul is the first film of 2011 that makes the list.  There has to be some heavy competition in the last months of the year to bump Paul off that list.  Not only is the funniest film I've seen this year, it is one of the funniest films I've seen in the last few years.  This is a must see for the Big Fan Boy geek squad, a solid winner.


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