A highly entertaining, albeit juvenile-humoured alternative to the usual loved-up pulp that comes out on Valentine's Day.


18 June 2011

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Plot summary

Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two sci-fi fans, Graeme and Clive, who having visited the geek’s wet dream, the Comic-Con convention in San Diego, USA, set off in a rented Winnebago to explore the legendary route of UFO crash sites. What they don’t vouch for is coming across their very own, real McCoy, the three-nippled, dope-smoking alien, Paul. Hence, begins a frantic and action-packed journey to reunite Paul with his kind in a woodland meeting place, not too dissimilar to the finale of E.T. – minus the BMX bikes.

Pegg and Frost simply geek out with references to a whole number of sci-fi classics, like one great big homage for the genre’s fans everywhere, but without going overboard and way over the heads of those just wanting a bit of light entertain. They even bring on board Alien Queen, Sigourney Weaver, as the Federal boss lady (a voice off-camera until the end), who sadly gives up her iconic line, “Get away from her, you bitch”, to another character in the film. That said the lads’ rapport is not quite on a par with their previous hits, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz that nicely bat the quips back and forth with a healthy doss of irony, and the result is watery imitation with this film. But the addition of Rogen as Paul certainly makes up for a comical and enjoyable threesome that deflects attention away from the pair’s less-than-risqué, better-keep-the-studio-happy gags.

Admittedly, there was a moment of scepticism when our two Brit nerds narrowly avoid a pile-up with an out-of-control car on a deserted mid-West road, and we all meet Paul for the first time. Initially, Rogen’s docile tones seem a tad unconvincing – as does Pegg’s eye-line with the CGI character. However, thanks to co-star Joe Lo Truglio – who plays equally geeky Special Agent O’Reilly in this – lending a hand, physically, as ‘Paul’ on set, things in the effects department do improve. Paul is outrageously outspoken, like an alien frat boy, but also acutely aware in any given situation that he finds his friends and himself in of what’s at stake, and looking like the stereotypical alien image we all know (parodied in the film), makes it very easy for us to fall for him as a Noughties-style E.T.

Whatever Pegg and Frost say about the very premise of the film being about extraterrestrial life, therefore, instantly challenging the Creationist’s view point, this film has a distinctly anti-religious jibe to it that cannot be dismissed as an inevitable R-rated expectation with such a comedy. With the entrance of pro-Creationist Ruth Buggs, played by Kristen Wiig, the comedy treads a fine line, especially when Buggs goes into cursing overdrive, as though this will ‘free’ her from her faith-bound chains. It will thrill some, coupled with Paul’s ‘Evolve this’ t-shirt, and be deemed childish and lazy writing by others, used to a better calibre of script from Pegg and Frost. Still, Wiig delivers her comic timing with great aplomb, demonstrating she has star quality in the making.

Pro-evolution debate aside for now, on the whole, Paul beams feel-good fun, cheekiness and carefree spirit.