Posted by: greercn | February 23, 2011


Monsters and aliens come with various conventions, in the world of movies. They threaten from a safe distance. Or, they wipe us out. Usually, they are part of the battle between good and evil that so often dominates film.

They affect the humans who encounter them in different ways. “ET” charms the viewer and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” spawned many imitations and a bunch of arguments at parties.

Essentially, each of us our has our own view on whether those from other planets are already here, coming soon or wiping out our planet for a quick route to somewhere better. It’s like psychic stuff. Each to their own. Film plays out these different concepts and explores ideas.

Most movies are made by middle-aged men but most people who watch movies in cinemas are young men aged 15-30. Therefore, interesting concepts are too often reduced to facile levels. “Paul” won’t challenge your brain, but there is a place for relaxing and predictable movies. 

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have forged a successful partnership playing a low rent Laurel and Hardy, for the boys who form the vast majority of the audience. They wrote the script. It’s typical of their oeuvre.  

But “Paul” also offered the chance to see the absolutely fabulous and utterly under-appreciated Blythe Danner. And Sigourney Weaver? Two older women in one movie? To see Sigourney with her “Alien” pedigree? It was too much to resist.

The plot – ahem – sees two English guys going to Comic Con in San Diego and renting a Winnebago-like vehicle to tour around the various alleged alien landing locations of America’s southwestern states. Along the way, they pick up a refugee alien – Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who looks just like the alien stereotype.

The FBI wants Paul back as he has escaped from them, after 60 years. Along the way, Simon and Nick come up against lots of FBI people, rednecks, religious zealots and any other American cultural stereotype you can think of.

Kristen Wiig of Saturday Night Live is funny as the woman they accidentally kidnap. Don’t fret about the nuances of this. There aren’t any.

Jason Bateman plays a very creepy FBI guy and Sigourney and my beloved Blythe are almost wasted, but still shine pretty brightly, due to being floodlit by car lights, helicopters and an alien spaceship that’s pretty nifty.

To like this, you have to like “Close Encounters”. I just don’t. I cringe when I remember all that time I wasted watching Richard Dreyfuss play with mud and wreck his living room. There is quite a lot of homage to “Close Encounters” here.

If you do like that movie, you will love this. Frost and Pegg fans will delight. Jeffrey Tambor plays a science fiction writer and John Carroll Lynch plays a religious zealot and both dominate the scenes they are in.

It’s a fun road movie with a rather different kind of alien – Paul is tetchy and has quite a droll line in humour – and it has a nice pace and is well-directed by Greg Mottola. Needless to add, I didn’t love it or hate it. It’s okay and leaves me with a vague craving to see last year’s “Star Trek” movie again, which did so much of this in a way that felt more loveable.

The Stratford Picturehouse audience all absolutely adored it and laughed themselves silly. It’s always fun to be around people who are having a good time. Expect lightweight alien fluff and you will not be disappointed.


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