In Paul, British comedians and frequent costars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg reunite for the first time since 2007's Hot Fuzz. Frost and Pegg costar as Clive and Graeme, two sci-fi fanboys on vacation in America to catch Comic-Con before heading off on an alien-inspired road trip.
The buddies are having the time of their lives stopping by UFO-related landmarks, but their trip takes a momentous turn when they come upon an actual alien. Named Paul, the little green guy is trying to escape a department of the government that has held him captive for a few years and now wants to harvest his brain for research. Voiced by Seth Rogen, Paul is a CGI creation in the form of the big-eyed, big-headed aliens humans have imagined for years.
Hot on their trail are a number of trackers: Jason Bateman is a Men in Black-type with very little sense of humor, Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio are a couple of clueless agents who don't know they're following an alien, and David Koechner is a redneck out to get the boys for being foreign. The ensemble of funnymen and cameos by other favorites, like Jane Lynch and Blythe Danner, adds another dimension of fun.
However, Paul is not necessarily all it could be. To find out what I liked and what I didn't, just
Rogen pulls off a feat of making Paul a real character, imbuing him with more than just a voice. Paul has distinctive, laid-back mannerisms and a friendly, full personality that makes him more than just a cartoonish afterthought. On the flip side, Kristen Wiig isn't used to her full potential. As Ruth, a religious zealot who has her mind blown by the existence of Paul, the very funny actress is squandered. As Ruth embraces a new lifestyle of doing what she wants, Wiig gets one running joke: cussing. Though her phrasing is often very creative, it gets old fast.
Paul caters to a very specific audience, to a fault. If you're not attuned to all pop culture references, you may wonder why the rest of the crowd is tittering at a seemingly insignificant line. In general, the movie is often funny, though never truly hilarious. And once you get to the climax and final act, the jokes drop off in favor of wrapping up the story. At that point, it becomes clear that the plot is paper thin, and you get bored waiting for the resolution.
The problem Frost/Pegg fans may have with this installment is that it's grossly inferior to Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. In those films, the concepts and plots are both more inspired and edgier. While Paul shares the brand of humor of its predecessors, it's only a mildly satisfying fix for fans.