There have been plenty of movies about aliens visiting Earth -- but not many where the humans have seen all those other movies. This is the basis for Paul, a comedy about geeks and their close en-- er, road trip with life from another planet.
Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two English science-fiction fans (Clive writes it, Graeme illustrates it) in America. Having just attended ComiCon, they decide to take their RV on a road trip to sites of famous alien encounters. What they don't expect is to meet an actual alien.
Paul (a cgi version of the typical "gray" alien -- large head and eyes, small body -- voiced by Seth Rogen) is the visitor from another world, having crash-landed here in 1947. He needs Graeme and Clive to take him somewhere, and fast! While Paul does have some amazing powers (turning invisible by holding his breath, transferring knowledge through touch, healing others), he's also a typical Seth Rogen character: foul-mouthed but lovable, a smart-ass, and, yes, there is a scene with a joint.
The trio wind up with another passenger on their trip: Ruth Buggs (Kristin Wiig), a serious Christian fundamentalist who winds up kidnapped after seeing Paul -- and who learns to curse and to flirt with Graeme. Ruth's father Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch) is a redneck who heads out to save his daughter -- with a shotgun. Extremely serious and deadly Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) is hot on Paul's trail; so are the two comically inept agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio). Graeme and Clive also seem to keep running into two hillbillies whose truck they backed into. There are also appearances by: Jeffrey Tambor as an obnoxious science-fiction author; Blythe Danner as the elderly woman who first met Paul when he... landed here; Jane Lynch as a waitress; and "The Big Guy," whose identity I won't reveal (though they are in several previews) and who follows Agent Zoil's progress with growing impatience.
Paul was written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and while their previous movies have gone pretty in-depth in spoofing their genres (Shaun of the Dead took on zombies, while Hot Fuzz skewered action film), this one goes a different direction. Sure there are references to everything fro Star Wars to Close Encounters (not to mention Paul's claim that he inspired most contemporary sci-fi), but their newest movie is more about chasing than spoofing. The acting is fine, and Rogen is quite good (if doing the same character he always plays; just in an alien body this time), but this is as much a chase movie as a comedy. (It also gets pretty violent towards the end.) While I laughed a lot at Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I mostly chuckled during Paul. It's a decent movie, just one that could have had a lot more fun with its mix of alien and geeks.
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch