WPR at the movies: Paul

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Paul has big shoes to fill. It’s the first time we’ve seen Simon Pegg and Nick Frost together in a film without Edgar Wright in the director’s seat and it’s a statement as to whether the two can still make a good film without him. Turns out they can, but Wright’s influence is missed nonetheless.Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are two Sci-fi nerds who visit America for two reasons. The first is to go to the San Diego Comic Con and the second is to go on a tour of America to see the UFO hotspots, from Area 51 to Roswell. Everything is going smoothly until a government car crashes in front of them and they encounter Paul, an fugitive alien on the run.

The first problem I had is with Graeme and Clive. Pegg and Frost’s duos are at their funniest when Pegg is the normal, smarter man and Frost is the dumber one. It’s been the same when they were Tim and , Shaun and Ed and Nick and . However in Paul both of them are geeky outcasts, with no real contrast between the two that creates conflict and thus comedy. That’s not to say they aren’t funny characters, but I felt like there was moments in the film where the comedy would have benefited further if their archetypes were more similar to their previous duos.

Despite the script being written by Pegg and Frost and Nira Park producing, that extra magic that Edgar Wright provides is lost in Paul. For example, as a director and writer Wright includes a lot of visual and subtle humour. What’s good about this is that it means in multiple viewings you will pick up on jokes that you never did the first time, which to me is the sign that separates a good comedy and an excellent comedy. While there’s a lot of good humour to be found in Paul, it just doesn’t feel as well done or as smart as Pegg and Frost’s previous efforts. Finally, I had a problem with the forced romance between Pegg’s character and the love interest played by Kristen Wiig. We never see any real development between the two other than Graeme’s infatuation with her so it just doesn’t feel natural or required to advance the plot when they get together.

Luckily, those are the only problems I had with Paul. And speaking of Paul, it’s him who steals the film. Seth Rogen, at least in the films I’ve seen him in, appears to be a one trick pony, using the same slacker character over and over. Here however, it seems like he’s in his natural element. Maybe it’s because he’s only voicing a CGI character rather than actually being on screen but all of the best material in the film seems to come from his character. I think it’s because his jokes revolve a lot around the misconceptions we have about any possibly extra terrestrials that are out there, from the appearance to their behaviour. In the film, Paul is responsible for a lot of this and thus Graeme and Clive’s preconceptions conflict a lot with Paul’s actual personality, who is more like a normal person than they are. Without him, there would be a lot less for the characters to contrast with and the film just wouldn’t be as funny and he’s also responsible for developing those characters as well as his own.

Bill Hader and are also good as the two secret service schmucks who are assigned to Jason Bateman’s character. However, this duo works simply because they are both dumb characters, but in a way that is funny. They frequently show a lack of skill as agents and it’s only in the third act that they actually realize what they are being tasked to do.

Finally, something that Paul has that Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz don’t have is the advantage of location. While the cinematography in both those films are great and only further ground those films with a British feel, Paul is lucky enough to be a road trip movie across the USA. Greg Mottola has taken full of advantage of the different beautiful landscapes in the country and as such the cinematography in the film provides us with a very beautiful looking film.

I just went to make it clear then that I really enjoyed Paul. As a standalone film its funny, keeps you hooked through the whole film and the comedy never comes across as forced. It’s also a good adventure film, with plenty of character development, beautiful locations and geek humour along the way. It proves that Pegg and Frost can cope without Edgar Wright. However, as a fan, inevitable comparisons are made and in that case I can’t say it’s as good as the first two films of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The best parts of the film are the things that make it unique though rather than what is missing because of Wright’s absence. A very good comedy that’s worth watching, but try to cast Shaun and Hot Fuzz out of your mind, despite the film’s marketing trying to compare it to those films.

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