Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


20 February 2011 by Nicholas in Films

I went to see Paul earlier today and I have to admit I enjoyed it. It’s written and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It also features the voice of Seth Rogen as the titular character.

Previously Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have worked together on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which are two of my favourite films. What these films have in common, other than their stars, is their director and co-writer: Edgar Wright. And as much as I did enjoy the film, you can fell his absence.

Paul starts with Pegg’s and Frost’s character going to Comic-Con International in San Diego before going on a road trip of America touring the sites of supposed alien contact. Upon leaving one of these sites they encounter a genuine alien and embark on a journey to help him return home.

There are a lot of jokes I enjoyed in the film, although they range from nerdy ones that I feel smug for getting to broad slapstick ones that probably play to the lowest common denominator. There wasn’t really much in the way of middle-ground to them. There are, however, just about enough of them to keep the film moving along, even if it does feel a bit episodic in places.

Simon Pegg plays his normal, likeable and slightly more mature character to Frost’s more buffoonish and immature comedic character. This is a double act that they have used since the TV series Spaced and in their other films together and works well. They have obvious chemistry together and their timing of the jokes works well. It is, however, by now largely predictable. Pegg’s character has all the real plot moments and Frost’s character has an arc where he matures or achieves some success.

The film is structured as a series of chases as well as the requisite road/buddy movie. There is a lot of familiarity here as well as several explicit homages to science fiction films. There is also quite a lot of swearing, which even forms a plot point in the film. There is also quite a British slant to a lot of the humour, with America’s heartland getting quite a raw deal, especially Christianity and those who support the idea of intelligent design.

The special effects are good, with Paul wonderfully designed and full of nice little touches. In a couple of scenes you can just about tell there is puppetry rather than CGI at work, but it works and doesn’t really drag you too far out of the film.

My only real reservations about the film are the fact that Edgar Wright films are funnier and the film draws an implicit comparison to them just through the cast, and that some of the humour is quite broad and the plot predicable and episodic. It’s a funny film and none of the performances are particularly bad, and none of the scenes miss fire. It just isn’t as great as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.