Paul [Blu-Ray]

Greg Mottola

BY Scott A. GrayPublished Aug 22, 2011

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) shift their mode of comedic homage to the world of sci-fi, affording director Greg Mottola (Superbad) the opportunity to deliver the most accomplished cinematic work of his career. As full-blooded UK geeks touring America's UFO hotspots after hitting Comic Con, Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings have a close encounter of the BFF kind with a foul-mouthed alien trying to escape off world after years of captivity. The duo's wussy, but friendly, naivety makes them ripe vehicles to carry Paul's mission to be a road movie/buddy comedy with a top-notch CGI alien inserted like a stoner/zen probe. The titular alien's presence and perspective force Graeme and Clive to evolve their attitudes, sweeping fundamentalist, anti-Darwinist RV camp manager Ruth Buggs (a fabulous Kristen Wiig) along for the ride. Her father (John Carroll Lynch, Zodiac) joins a chase already involving a team of government agents, led by a surprisingly badass Jason Bateman (Juno, Teen Wolf Too). Stuffed to the seams with cleverly bent cursing and carefully, but abundantly, employed sci-fi and cinema references, both visually and in the dialogue, Paul is consistently funny and charming. The details are more important than the journey, but the characters are richly acted by a fantastic cast. Bombastic superstar author Adam Shadowchild (deliciously realized by Jeffrey Tambour, Arrested Development), and the increasingly zealous newbie agents backing Bateman's Zoil (played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio) are just a few of the zany joys pulsing through Paul. Seth Rogan's voice performance and motion capture references (plenty of footage of which can be seen in the vast special features) give the most fantastical element of the picture a strong tether; he feels like one of the guys. Credit must be, and is, given to the army of animators and FX wizards, all of whom get to say at least a word, or maybe two, in one of the lengthier production features. Paul is packed as densely with features as it is with pop culture nods. Extensive bloopers, a montage of "Simon's Silly Faces" and a plethora of footage of cast members goofing around on set (Paul the Musical, with Wiig, Hader and Lo Truglio is especially committed ridiculousness) provide a lot of chuckles for your time. Much attention is also paid to Mottola's ambitious camera work, using a number of specific movements to really get involved with the reference-based comedy and visual storytelling. Pegg, Frost, Hader, Motolla and producer Nina Park participate in a frequently funny commentary track that takes occasional breaks from joking around to discuss the footage. There are a few spotty effects late in the film, and a lot of the humour doesn't translate outside of its geek-centric, primary audience, but the more immersed you are in that culture, the more likely Paul will be your favourite comedy of the year so far.

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