“Paul” Satirizes Comic Con Culture


James Cullinane

"Paul" Satirizes Comic Con Culture

For centuries upon centuries, mankind has been fascinated with the idea of extraterrestrial life.  In turn, the movie industry has fed into this obsession of sorts with child-friendly alien movies such as “E.T.”  However, with the success of “ET”, many imitating films including 2009’s  “Race to Witch Mountain”  have failed to gain this cult-like following.

In 2011, a perfect storm of sorts occurred for the spoof-comedy genre with the release of “Paul”, the story of two comic book geeks who happen to stumble across an alien who has escaped Area-51 on their pilgrimage to Roswell, New Mexico.  Britain’s kings of comedy, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, star in this hilarious alien adventure as Clive Gollings and Graeme Willy.  Frost and Pegg, who share a close friendship off the screen, have teamed up successfully in the past with 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead” and 2007’s “Hot Fuzz.”  This hilarious British duo joined forces with one of the United States most side-splitting directors, Greg Motolla (Superbad) in this witty take on extraterrestrial life.

Despite the big name actors seen on screen in “Paul”, Seth Rogen, the voice behind this ordinary alien, steals the show from his respective counterparts.  The character of Paul is pure comedic genius.  Just imagine coming across an alien who comes not in futuristic attire, but in cargo shorts and sandals.  The irony of the story is due mainly to the fact that Paul is no different than Clive or Graeme.  He is a marijuana smoking alien with human characteristics including an incredible sense of humor and an often offensive vocabulary.  Rogen’s voice proves unmistakable, while his delivery throughout the film is flawless.

“Paul”, in many ways is “E.T.”, with the addition of an R-rating and adult themes.  Paul’s character traits immediately re-convey the message that “Paul” is not a childrens movie, but instead a simple Judd Apatow-like comedy that happens to center around an alien.  The plot of “Paul” is undoubtedly a spoof of “E.T.”, as this formerly imprisoned alien wants nothing but a safe return to his home planet, which Clive and Graeme help him pursue throughout the film.  Along their journey, Graem, Clive, and Paul encounter many obstacles which add to the film.  In a timeless cliche, Paul is being hunted by “men in black”, played to perfection by the hilarious trio of Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) , Bill Hader (Superbad), and Reno 911’s Joe Lo Truglio.  These alien-hunting agents all take orders from a character referred to as “The Man”, who is ironically portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, a beloved figure in the alien movie industry.

Despite constant laughter in the audience, “Paul” fails in comparison to “Shaun of the Dead”, which is considered one of the greatest movie spoofs of all time.  However, when compared to “Hot Fuzz”, it is difficult to condemn “Paul’s” witty script, co-written by Frost and Pegg.  “Paul” possesses large comedic value and is more appealing to the masses than the underachieving “Hot Fuzz.”  However, the film’s lack of effective transitions prohibits “Paul” from gaining the same praise received by “Shaun of the Dead.”

While watching “Paul”, it is hard to think that this film lived up to its full potential.  With an all-star comedy cast and the direction of one of America’s greatest comedic minds, “Paul” simply does not reach viewers’ high expectations.  “Paul” lacks direction at times and serves more as a montage of hilarious skits, rather than a full length motion picture.

Despite these criticisms, the unique nature of “Paul” sets it apart from the ordinary spoof film and prevents it from being mentioned  in the same category as disastrous attempts at comedy including “Date Movie” or “The Comebacks.”  However, its choppy, piece-by-piece construction also prevents “Paul” from standing alongside the likes of “Airplane” or “Shaun of the Dead.”  In essence, “Paul” is the epitome of a “B” spoof film, which ranks far ahead of most modern spoofs.