Paul: close encounters of the nerdy kind

Paul, written by and starring durable double-act Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, is a likeable but terribly lame sci-fi comedy about two English nerds who stumble across a fugitive alien in between attending comic book conventions and visiting sites of rumoured extra-terrestrial contact such as Area 51. Pegg and Frost have an easy rapport, and the early scenes showing their geekish delight at being in the states and coming across cult authors and artefacts are breezy and enjoyable – it’s when they meet the improbably named Paul that the film’s problems really set in. The alien is characterised at a wise-cracking smart-ass with a heart of gold who’s ever ready to let rip with profanity-laden personal comments, and this robs the film completely of any sense of wonder as it develops into an unremarkable chase-and-hide structure, with generic Men In Black style agents pursuing the Englishmen and their guest across terrains familiar (and more interestingly shot) from movies like Thelma And Louise and Duel. The film’s worst sin is that it’s just not that funny, although Pegg and Frost deserve praise for dodging a lot of the more obvious hillbilly gags and working a critique of fundamentalist Christian attitudes into a mainstream American entertainment. I think I laughed twice, and one of those was at the audacity of using an iconic quote from Aliens at a crucial point in the climactic confrontation between the heroes and Sigourney Weaver’s evil big boss. Paul is probably perfectly fine for a Saturday night with mates and beers, but you can’t help wishing that it aimed a bit higher, given the pedigree of the writers.

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