MacGuffin Dialogue Review – Paul

Dialogue Review – Paul

Brandi Sperry: I like road movies. I like alien movies. I definitely like the comedic ventures of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. And I’ve totally got a thing for Kristen Wiig. So it’s possible I had overly high hopes going into the movie Paul, which opens today. But I think a lot of people going into this will have high hopes, so maybe that’s fair.

Allen Almachar: Don’t forget director Greg Mottola, who brought us both Superbad (2007) and Adventureland (2009), two very solid, entertaining movies that have high replay value. With all this talent involved in the film, does Paul deliver with its sci-fi comedy/action/adventure stuff? Let’s find out.

Pegg and Frost star as Graeme and Clive, two comic book nerds traveling to America both to attend the San Diego ComiCon and to see the great sights of America’s UFO heartland. Renting an RV, the two travel around the southwest, taking pictures of various notable places where UFO sightings have occurred. All is well and good, even despite having some close encounters with the more hostile locals—that is, until they meet a most unexpected visitor.

Brandi: Paul the alien makes quite an entrance into our lovable geeks’ lives, crashing his stolen car rather spectacularly out on the desert highway. Clive and Graeme investigate, and after an understandably shocked reaction, take Paul the fugitive along with them and vow to help keep him hidden from the government agents on his tail.

Paul is voiced by Seth Rogen, who I generally really like. But I’m not sure he was the right choice here. I’m guessing the filmmakers thought the disconnect between our association of that voice with a dopey stoner persona and the small alien visual would be funny. For me, it was just a distraction.

Allen: I completely agree with you about the choice of Seth Rogen as Paul. His voice is too recognizable to play a part like this. In fact, the entire characterization of Paul, with his laid back and smart ass attitude, is too similar to that of other characters that Rogen has played before. It does become a distraction when you’re trying to make yourself believe that an American-accented alien would actually encounter and interact with people like Graeme and Clive.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. The rest of the film has Graeme and Clive attempting to transport Paul to a remote location (reason we’ll leave out) while keeping him away from local authorities Haggard (Bill Hader), O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), and a mysterious, sunglasses-wearing man known only as Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman). While on their adventure, they pick up Ruth Buggs (Wiig), a religious and naïve woman who appears to not have experienced a whole a lot in her life, but ends up being of major help to our heroic trio.

Overall, I have to say that this film was a disappointment. As you can see by the names we’ve listed here, there is a whole lot of talent involved with this movie. However, everything about it is simply underwhelming. Yes, it’s funny at times, but only kind of funny. It’s entertaining at times, but only kind of entertaining. If you look at the work that everyone here has done before, I think it would be a safe bet to say that this would not rank amongst their best work.

Brandi: For me, the best moments were all smaller ones that highlighted the friendship between Graeme and Clive.

Pegg and Frost are lovely to watch together in general, and I really liked those two characters. It’s refreshing to see a friendship on film where the characters bring out the best in each other, rather than the worst. But I wish they’d meshed a bit better with Kristen Wiig’s Ruth. It’s fine for outlying characters like the agents or others they encounter along the way to be over the top kooky, but Ruth is present for quite a lot of the film, and on such a different wavelength from our gentle geek duo that I didn’t always buy her growing connection with them.

I’m willing to concede that there may be sly references all over this movie that I don’t get, not being steeped in geek culture to that level. But I had hoped the surface stuff would be funnier, too. The gags just didn’t feel fresh. There’s one ongoing situation in particular that bothered me, with a couple of rednecks who bother Graeme and Clive, because a very similar set-up was already done in a much more hilarious way in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. Overall, Paul was definitely kind of entertaining, but kind of disappointing. With two types of films to do their signature work on (road movies and alien encounter movies), I was hoping for twice the genre-twisting fun of a Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but got about half of it.

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Allen: I think I was more disappointed with the film than you were. I certainly walked into the movie hoping to get something like Shaun of the Dead, but it clearly fell way short of that. I can appreciate some of the sci-fi references they incorporated (E.Capitalt./Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but other than that there really wasn’t anything about the film that I found memorable. If someone were to ask me what the funniest part of the movie was, I don’t think I would be able to describe it to them.

A part of me feels as though Edgar Wright should have had a hand with this movie. That’s not to say that Greg Mottola is a bad director, because I loved Superbad and Adventureland. But those films were steeped in a kind of reality. I think with the way that this movie was more wacky and “out of this world” (pardon the pun), Mottola was sort of out of his element. It would have been interesting to see how Wright would have handled this material.

Brandi: Well, of course we can’t speculate too much, but it’s true that Edgar Wright is the missing element when comparing those previous collaborations with Paul.

Yeah, I agree that you were more disappointed than me, but your point about memorability is a good one. There was nothing that really stuck with me, and I doubt I’ll watch the film again. But, if someone had never seen Pegg and Frost’s work before and wasn’t anticipating a classic, or went in just wanting to watch an easy comedy, I think they’d have a pleasant time at the movies.

Allen: I think “pleasant” is an appropriate term for how I feel about this movie. It certainly isn’t horrible, but it’s not great either, completely forgettable.

Final Grades:
Allen: C+
Brandi: B-

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