Any 20-something sci-fi or comic book geek over the years will undoubtedly have a special place in their heart reserved for, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Be it the classic comedy series, Spaced or the delightfully clever Edgar Wright directed features, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead you'd quite rightly believe these guys could do no wrong. So after the duo went off and did their own thing, with mixed to brilliant results, fans have been yearning for them to double up once again for another buddy comedy littered with countless pop culture references. This is where Paul comes in, and for the large part it's a typical Pegg and Frost collaboration, just not quite as we know it...
Paul follows the story of two British sci-fi geeks doing a road-trip of America's South Western states often regarded as the most common place to find UFO sightings, where of course they stumble across a little alien who goes by the name of, yes that's right, Paul. Long story short, Paul is essentially E.T for stoner audiences. Instead of finding a cute little alien who is quite misunderstood, Pegg and Frost stumble across Seth Rogen as an alien, doing, yet again, the same things Seth Rogen does in every other film - but I shan't go down that road again, check out my Green Hornet review for that old chestnut.
What Pegg and Frost do really well here, is litter the film in dozen of cleverly poised references and homages to sci-fi films past which included an opening scene which is lifted straight from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a final scene which is literally the climax to E.T (with a slight blend of Blues Brothers bonding thrown into the mix). What they regrettably and surprisingly don't do, is actually manage to make it genuinely funny.
I know that's blasphemous, and I feel dirty saying it, but for most of the feature I was struggling to honestly enjoy it. Whereas Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz felt so natural and subtle with its uniquely clever brand of honest British comedy, Paul felt so sluggish and forced, and so...American, with its tasteless smut and stoner jokes that became old four Kevin Smith films ago. And all this is a true shame because the film has some terrific, likeable, performances from the likes of Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Gregg Turkington, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch and the ever classy, Sigourney Weaver (unfortunately the film was a missed opportunity for the actress to utter any of her famous lines from Aliens).
After reviewing Scott Pilgrim Vs The World last year, I questioned that perhaps Edgar Wright was slightly lost or out of control without the constraint of Pegg and Frost to guide him towards the finishing line. Seemingly the other two thirds of this holy trinity suffered similar misgivings without the stylish vision and clever quick editing of Wright to make their sub-standard script come across more potently on screen. Maybe it's finally time to get the old band back together for the final part of their much celebrated, Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy.
There were brief moments and even the odd quick joke which made me smile or even giggle, but for the most part Paul was too bogged down in paying homage to Steven Spielberg to ever let itself be its own film. Lacking the brilliantly crafted humour of their past projects, I sincerely hope this is more a blip on the CV rather than the start of a tragic decline for Britain's favourite geeks. And, in regards to the rating, I wouldn't be that harsh if I didn't care...
Paul is in cinemas everywhere now.