Wednesday 16 February 2011

Review: Paul

Year: 2011
Director: Greg Mottola
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kirsten Wiig, Seth Rogan, Jason Bateman

Synopsis is here

Early buzz for Paul from what I've seen is decidedly mixed. Peter Bradshaw, Christopher Tookie and Robbie Collins* didn't gain much from the viewing experience. There's also a feeling that some of the religious talk that crops up (allegedly toned down from what was originally placed) may feel like cheap pop shots and will little to sway likability from some of the more feverish u.s. supporters of Jesus Christ. I find this kind of a shame because underneth the dick and fart jokes is a warm film that is really in love with it's subject matter.

Much of this is to do with the writing from Pegg and Frost who are now; to many, two of our premium comedians, know how to write for each other and react with one another. Safe to say that if you weren't a fan of their previous endeavors, it's unlikely this will do any favors. And with this said, there's something that isn't quite right about all the proceedings. I watched Paul with friends on Valentines day and one response afterward was "the beginning is a little weak". I can't say that truly bothered me (big fan of silly references see) but I must admit there was a distinct lack of presence at first glance. As much as it's been said that Paul wishes to be a sci-fi Little Miss Sunshine of sorts (Pegg on Radio 5 with Kermode) it's quite revealing how much this duo miss their third musketeer. The lack of Edgar Wright (swanned off to pursue Pilgrim) is visible as it is his visual style and timing that often helps enhance and give punch to Peggs writing and Frost/Pegg's chemistry. This isn't to say I did not laugh. Not at all, I loved the Spielberg references, dug the fact there's a Mac and Me reference in one scene, cried at the Friedmans gag and I hope the introduction of Paul has Chris Carter smiling.

The thing is Wright patches up any drop off moments. Any scenes that may feel flabby or unkempt here, may not have under Edgar. This isn't a middle finger to Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) as it's very clear why he was placed on board to steer the ship. Mottola has what I was describe as a sweeter sensibility and much of the movie reflects this. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are lovable parodies of their respective genres and they work for many as they spoof many typical elements that we often see in those films. Paul is truly more of a homage, not looking to subvert aspects but celebrate them in a way that only the filmmakers can. It is however, a pity that it often has to resort to swearing and scat jokes to it.

Some have said that Paul is a film that's finally gives Kristen Wiig time to shine. I disagree with not because I dislike Wiig (in fact slight crush) but because this additional time seems to be filled with Wiig "learning to swear well" which woud be fine in a small doses but fortunately becomes the main (one note) joke for a talented comedienne. Wiig clearly has fun in the role (as those everyone involved) but it's this resort to the basic that often throws the film off balance. Another sign of this imbalance would be having one character too many. There's no reason for the father character in this movie other than for the last scene which could have been done by almost anyone.   

However, most of the other characters work and they are fun to be around. Paul himself being a great mixture of well picked voice work (Rogan is brilliant) and well utilized effects (Paul really feels like a tangible character). Pegg (Graeme) and Frost (Clive) also have an interesting role reversal of type (Frost appears to be more of the straight man than Pegg for once) which isn't perfect, but mildly refreshing. Jason Bateman meanwhile (with an amusingly obscure film reference) is does what he does best. 

The above reviews state that Paul appears to be lacking in jokes. Maybe. There's not much in the way of real gags a such. With this said, the references, the one liners and chemistry didn't just make me smile but are leaps and bounds over recent releases Due Date, Cop out, Dinner for Schmucks, Vampires Suck and the like. Paul is very nerdy and will have moments only geeks will give a hoot about, but had more than enough laugh to sustain it's running time and more than enough heart to make it lovable.