Paul is probably the most anticipated science fiction comedy of the year. Two road-tripping nerds, played by Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, meet an alien "gray" named Paul, who turns their world upside-down. It's our favorite comedy duo going to Comic Con and traveling with an alien! The film has had its premiere in the U.K., and the first reviews have been trickling out online. How does the film stack up?
The overall consensus is that this is a seriously fun movie, in which the jokes come pretty fast and furious. There are a fair number of in-jokes that will only work for die-hard fans, but also plenty of humor that everyone can appreciate. The bromance between Pegg and Frost is as great as ever, but the addition of a fundamentalist Christian woman (played by Kristin Wiig) dilutes their dynamic a bit. The film doesn't entirely succeed as a fun road-trip comedy or a jaunty science fiction adventure comedy, and some of the jabs at Christianity may piss off Christian audiences.
Apparently Wiig's character has a sort of anti-religious awakening, in which she rejects Christianity and learns to swear, and this is most likely the most controversial aspect of an otherwise standard comedy. At one point, Paul the alien says, "My existence doesn't necessarily disprove religion: just all Judaeo-Christian denominations."
Oh, and apparently there's a Country-Western cover version of the Cantina Band song from Star Wars. Awesome!
So running down the reviews:
The Hollywood Reporter is among the most glowing:
With great gags, lots of clever little moments and a winning, almost-human story at the center to leaven the big action sequences, the film should please devoted fans of the genre with its savvy attention to detail. But also it should appeal to those who generally can take or the leave the genre, which it treats with cheerful disrespect. Box-office riches lie in wait, as it is exactly the kind of film that fans will want to see more than once.
Obsessed With Film likes the humor in the film, but is pretty negative about the direction:
The direction by Greg Mottola is tame and illustrates two things quite clearly: firstly, Pegg and Frost are pedestrian without the visual flair of Edgar Wright to provide the punch to their lines, secondly, Mottola's work in Adventureland and Superbad have been vastly overrated. The two films were average at best, and the best parts were carried by some quality acting and clever scripting.
Den of Geek also feels like the action is lacking but the jokes are great:
It's not in the same league as Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz. The film references aren't as sharply implemented, the character development is distinctly shallower, with the emotional wallop of Shaun Of The Dead , in particular, being completely absent, and the action scenes definitely miss Edgar Wright's orange Smartie-addled kinecticism, and feel a little bit underdone as a result. On a purely laugh-by-laugh basis, however, it's easily the equal of the 'Blood and Ice Cream' films.
Greg Mottola's direction also earns the film some demerits from Hey U Guys:
Whilst the comedy generally succeeds in all the right places the propulsion needed to keep the plot engaging is lacking and Mottola also shows something of weakness for directing what could have made for much more thrilling action sequences. There are scenes, for instance, that on paper look like car chases but really just consist of little more than aerial shots of people driving.
And Brendan Connelly strikes similar notes in his review at Bleeding Cool: Mottola doesn't quite manage to pull off directing such a different film than his previous efforts, but the comedy is solid. And Connelly likes the character development, and the occasional stab at addressing issues of religious faith.
FilmShaft really liked the film's heart:
Paul is a well crafted balance of yank and brit comedy, that while never quite scaling the heights to Shaun or Fuzz levels, is full of plenty of laughs and lots of heart. Pegg and Frost's chemistry is as adorable as always and there are also plenty of great cameos: best of all being Sigourney Weaver, who beats everyone up and brings the house down twice... Things start to plod a little by three quarters of the way through though, and I wasn't a fan of the instances of religious bickering and bitching either.