The Mothership Cometh!
At first it was the zombie genre, then they had a hand at buddy cop films. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are showing that they certainly are film geeks at heart with their feature films poking intelligent fun at genre movies, and carries the flag that shows the distinct gulf of class between Brit humour, and the slapstick nonsense that folks such as Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer churn out with their crass products that just tried to hard. Paul is Frost and Pegg's latest attempt at subversion of the alien genre movies, and my, it's perfectly entertaining.
It's not easy mind you, given that the majority of films that deal with alien subject matter almost always have them as the adversary in some major shoot them up action sequences, so the duo opted for a story that's predictable, yet full of charm and heart that provides that warm and fuzzy feeling, not new mind you, given that it's been done before in classics such as Coccoon and E.T. even, and I appreciate the more positive themes of friendship and camaraderie over yet another invasion type of film that we're seeing a lot these days, from Skyline to Battle: Los Angeles. Perhaps it goes to show our lack of tolerance, or total intolerance in the modern day toward those outside our sphere of familiarity, opting for, agreeing and appealing to our growing hostility, compared to a time where "I Come In Peace" isn't met with skepticism and a loaded, pointed gun. And why not another film about friends given that the duo effortlessly transfers their real life friendship onto the big screen and this shows.
Playing English graphic novelist Clive Golings (Frost) and illustrator Graeme Willy (Pegg) who fulfill their inner fan-boy and geek-hood puberty in making that pilgrimage to Geek Nirvana in the San Diego Comic Con International (note to self: you must get there someday), they take off in an RV on a road trip along the American mid-west to pit stop at various famous alien sighting and landing spots. Why not, since you've already spent money getting abroad, to go do what your heart desires, only that their wildest dreams came true when they crash into a car driven none other by an escaping alien nicknamed Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen).
So begins a madcap road trip with the friends constantly bickering over the new alien stowaway, with Clive being extremely pissy with the risks involved, and Graeme being the more accommodating, wide-eyed kid that provides for Paul to showoff his abilities, from sharing of knowledge through touch, powers of resurrection (you can almost smell what's coming with this Chekhov's GUn, although how it's introduced here is simply hilarious) and plenty of smart alecky wisecracks and inside jokes on alien films and pop references, thanks to the nature of writers Frost and Pegg who inserted multitudes of references and easter eggs that makes multiple viewings worthwhile. Take for instance when they step into a crowded bar, the tune played by a live band takes after the exact tune in Star Wars when Ben Kenobi and Luke Skywalker entered a cantina in search of a pilot.
Then there's this very smart critique on science versus religious fanaticism that was brilliantly tackled here through that of the romantic fodder in Kristen Wiig as Ruth, home-schooled by her dad Moses (John Carroll Lynch) and brought up to be all God-fearing, only for the presence of Paul to cast that faith into disarray. Her transformation into the all inquisitive, potty mouth lass is something of a hoot, and becomes the token romantic figure for Graeme that provides for some tension in the friendship between Graeme and Clive, who had stuck so thick and thin that there are no less than two situations they get mistaken for more than just firm friends (though it shows, mate!)
Paul is totally CG-ed and Singapore may be proud to know that we had a hand in some of the aspects in bringing the film to fruition. Seth Rogen provides the voice of the alien designed after the famous alien head pop reference, and this geek's film is shouldered by an able supporting cast that includes Jason Bateman as the all too serious, pursuing Agent Zoil, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio as bumbling detectives ordered to assist in his pursuit only to develop ideas of their own, David Koechner and Jesse Plemons as two recurring rednecks and one excellent surprise cameo that lifted the film in its climax, which was frankly, a fantastic masterstroke of genius for film fans.
Nick Frost and Simon Pegg may not have the services of fellow collaborator in director Edgar Wright, but as these two showed, all you need is a very solid script and excellent buddy chemistry to make a film layered, rich, and thoroughly entertaining without dumbing it down into stupidity. Paul the alien is funny yet rude, full of himself and yet possessing some of the best qualities of humanity, and yes he will linger on as one of the best alien encounters on film. Highly recommended, and may I dare say this goes into my shortlist of favourites for the year!