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Time Out New York Project: Issue #804, March 17-23, 2011
Dir. Greg Mottola. 2011. R. 104mins. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen.
He’s responsible for all of the 20th century’s great advances: Close Encounters, Fox Mulder, Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Steven Spielberg, unsurprisingly, has his digits on speed dial.) He’s Paul (voiced by Rogen), pot-loving alien slacker, an extraterrestrial on the run from some determined men in black. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: The first act of Greg Mottola’s frenzied comic adventure is dedicated to British best buds Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Frost, also the film’s writers), who follow up a geektastic visit to Comic-Con with an RV road trip around the American Southwest. Their plan is to visit a bunch of UFO hot spots, but happenstance, and a bit of bad driving, puts them in the path of Paul.
Save for the occasional weed-toking stopover, this ET just wants to get home, and Graeme and Clive, after a little hemming and hawing, are happy to oblige. They’re joined by a half-blind Christian fundamentalist love interest (Kristin Wiig), who takes the revelation of life on other worlds as an excuse to exercise her repressed libido. And hot on their tail is Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), an undercover operative with a mysterious boss who sounds exactly like Ellen Ripley.
You know it’s only a matter of time before someone makes a “Get away from her, you bitch!” reference. There’s certainly plenty to laugh at in Paul, especially a few truly astonishing parodic recreations of ’80s-era Spielberg compositions. But what’s frustrating is how consistently the film waffles between the inspired (Jeffrey Tambor as a self-involved sci-fi author) and the inept (many of the riff-heavy dialogue scenes are a hash of medium close-ups and overemphatic line readings). The title character himself is also an unimpressive digital creation — Rogen might as well be performing his stoner-from-another-world shtick during a wee-hours movieoke session.—Keith Uhlich
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