March 18, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Watch it at home.


The genial PAUL really only has one joke–luckily it’s a pretty good one: what if ET had the persona of Seth Rogen? While Paul isn’t the first alien to crack jokes (remember Alf?), Rogen’s voice gives the guy a little slacker/stoner kick. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the Elliots of this tale, two English sci-fi nerd tourists who follow their Comic-Con pilgrimage with a tour of Area 51 and other purported US visitations from outer space, when their paths cross with Paul, who of course is just trying to get home. Many, many Steven Spielberg jokes follow, from the obvious to the inspired (mostly ET and Close Encounters-related, but with a few less predictable sources), as our heroes acquire a potential love interest (Kristen Wiig)while dodging federal agents (led by Jason Bateman and Bill Hader), rednecks (David Koechner and Jesse Plemons) and the girl’s religious-fanatic dad (John Carroll Lynch). There are also guest appearances by Jeffrey Tambor and Sigourney Weaver–they don’t miss the opportunity for an Aliens gag–as well as Blythe Danner.

Pegg and Frost, who wrote the script as well as star, are best known here for their roles in Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (both of which Pegg co-wrote), and this one doesn’t have the sheer crazy exuberance of Wright’s movies, so some of the flaws (there’s a running gag about one character learning to curse that doesn’t stop) are more glaring than they might have been. Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad and Adventureland, has a calmer, lower-key hand, which makes the proceedings somewhat less hilarious and yet preserves some sweetness toward the end. Mitch Metcalf has elsewhere on this site predicted moderate box-office for the film (which would mean a decent return on its budget, which was relatively low considering the extensive, and quite good, performance of the CG Paul) , and that seems about right, as it should appeal to the core of its earthbound audience but probably not, to any other-worldly extent, beyond.

(PAUL – Universal – 104 min. – Director: Greg Mottola – Script: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost – Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, John Carroll Lynch, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Blythe Danner – Wide Release)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."