by Hugh Fisher
‘Paul,’ the latest offering from UK writer and actor Simon Pegg, is a buddy movie with one of the more unlikely buddies out there: A bulb-headed alien with unimaginable powers who just wants to get back home.
If you’re familiar with previous Pegg films (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”), you don’t need a lot of background to know this will be funny.
Some aliens want to eat us, steal our women or destroy our planet. Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) is the kind of alien who’d rather toss back a beer, roll a joint and argue about creationism.
He’s E.T. in the age of Facebook.
English Nerd adventurers Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Nick Frost, respectively) meet Paul in the middle of the desert while in the midst of a road trip to see the landmarks of UFO history – a sort of nerds’ grand tour of America.
Shirtless, matter-of-fact Paul has been stranded here since 1947 when his spaceship crash-landed at Area 51. For years, he’s been offering technical advice and trying to pave the way for an eventual meeting between aliens and humans.
He even spent some time telling a guy named Spielberg how to make a realistic movie about extra-terrestrials. Go figure.
But now, Paul has learned of the government’s plans to do away with him and is plotting to find a way back home.
Roped into helping Paul escape, Graeme and Clive have to outsmart the cops and come face-to-face with their own fears. And possibly find love with the pretty but shy Ruth (Kristen Wiig).
A lot of modern-day comedies strike me like contemporary pop songs, in that even those that don’t sample other songs end up sounding familiar and formulaic. “Paul,” however, samples copiously and pulls it off, keeping to the right side of the line between homage and parody.
Pegg manages to make fun of American sci-fi standards, such as the “Men In Black”-style agents who are really unabashed nerds themselves, without turning his film into “Scary Movie.”
There are enough references to famous films and characters – not to mention hilarious send-ups of American archetypes – to keep you laughing and glancing over to see if your friends got the joke.
Pegg obviously finds the U.S. endearing, right down to our crowds of hero-worshiping comic book guys and girls.
This isn’t a movie for the squeamish or easily offended, but if you’re familiar with Pegg’s earlier work, you’ll be fine. The biggest risk of this alien flick is that you may hurt your sides from laughing.
Grade: 3/4 Stars