Paul: A comedic love letter to all things sci-fi – REVIEW

By Sean O’Connell Greg Motolla’s “Paul” is a swiftly plotted and consistently funny road-trip comedy about Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), best friends and sci-fi fanatics who are touring all the alien hot spots from Area 51 to Roswell on their way back from Comic-Con.

But if you don’t know about Comic-Con or care about Area 51 and Roswell, you’re better off seeing anything else.

The story centers on this twosome but really starts with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a bulbous-headed extraterrestrial who crash landed on our planet in 1947, and has been under government surveillance – influencing pop culture and advising the likes of Steven Spielberg — ever since.

Convinced that the government, specifically The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver), has collected all she needs and is ready to pull Paul’s plug, the little green man orchestrates an escape. He lands in Graeme and Clive’s roomy RV, and the trio bumbles ahead, staying one step ahead of Secret Service agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) while picking up a ultra-conservative, right-wing Christian (Kristen Wiig) who bristles at the idea of Paul because it pokes holes in her belief that the Lord, Or Savior, is not the center of the known universe.

“Paul,” however, isn’t here to poke fun at organized religion or lash out at the government. These characters are just necessary players in what turns out to be a loving homage to the 1950s and ’60s science-fiction genre.

In much the same fashion that “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” penned open love letters to zombie and action cinema, respectively, “Paul” is infused with an appreciation of all things sci-fi … specifically, all things Steven Spielberg (who cleverly cameos).

Whip-smart references to beloved genre classics abound. Some are subtle. Others are obvious. All fly fast and furious but so often hit their mark because Motolla’s crisp direction picks its moments and his cast – specifically Pegg and Frost – is plugged directly into the vibe and eager to play along.

Years ago, I might have said “Paul” only plays to a specific audience. And that still may be the case. The difference, however, is that the audience that will be in on the joke “Paul” is telling has grown. Substantially. Right around the time Blythe Danner utters an infamous line of dialogue to Weaver, that group will label “Paul” as out of this world.

Grade: *** out of 4 stars

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