E.T Lite

Main Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristin Wiig

Director: Greg Mottola

Two things.  One: I’m tired of looking at Seth Rogen.  Thankfully for me, I didn’t have to do so while watching Paul since he provides only a voice. Two: Paul is a shameless spoof of ET made tolerable by its very shamelessness.

Okay then!  Paul stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two fish-out-of-water Englishmen traveling in America.  They’re uber-geeks who come for Comic-Con and stay to take a tour of some famous US extraterrestrial landmarks in an RV.  Imagine their surprise when they discover an actual alien.  Not only that, but it speaks English, drinks beer and wants to hitch a ride so it can get home.

Seth Rogen voices the CG alien named, of course, Paul.  He looks just like he’s supposed to look – big head, small body, giant eyes.  You’ve all seen the alien pictures – that’s Paul (for those of you who need it I’ve included a picture of the typical alien prototype – you’re welcome).  The CGI rendering is good but not great – this isn’t Peter Jackson’s Gollum, it’s more like Wile E. Coyote’s Acme Gollum.  But darn if he isn’t pretty cute.  Not believable for a second, but cute.

But what about his story?  You see, Paul landed here quite by accident many years ago.  His activities in the meantime I will not disclose but now he’s decided it’s just about time for him to make a graceful exit.  Too bad there are a couple of government guys on his tail hoping to make sure that doesn’t happen.  In the forms of Jason Bateman and Bill Hader these guys have a tough time bringing on

Alien by Hedda Gabler

Typical alien head

the bad because they’re too busy bringing on the bumbling.

Also entering the picture is the fabulous Kristen Wiig as a very Christian trailer park employee who happens to stumble into the little group and finds herself along for the ride.  She wears an eye patch.  Did I mention that she’s fabulous?

Paul is more or less ET with funny British people.  The alien is adult and vulgar, those who find him are naïve simpletons with geek oozing from every pore and those who would stop them are parodies.  Remarkably, it all works.  Paul is a funny movie when it really, given the premise, has no right to be any such thing.

Director Greg Mottola wisely chooses to make absolutely no bones about ripping off ET.  Stephen Spielberg even lends his voice over the phone at one point in the proceedings.  It’s a spoof, but one done with love and respect for the original as well as some good humor all its own.  Simon Pegg is a funny man, plain and simple, and his character of Greame Willy is the perfect nerd man-child.  He’s at his best when riffing with Frost’s character of Clive.  The two have worked together many times before and it shows – they have an easy rapport and are able to make even the most ludicrous of discussions funny (the pair also wrote the film).  Pegg also works well with his CGI castmate Paul.  It can’t be easy to banter with a green screen and Pegg does so exceptionally well.  His budding relationship with Kristen Wiig’s character isn’t quite as strong, but on her own she’s a riot as the born again non-Christian discovering the joys of being un-devout.

There’s quite a bit of teenage boy humor here – burps and farts and sex jokes and hangovers.  But it’s good-hearted and not really all that vulgar.  My teenage boy laughed – but so did I.  We also laughed quite a bit at the bumbling bad guys – Bill Hader in particular.

Overall Paul is really a sweet, funny homage to ET and those attracted to the mythos of the extraterrestrial in the US.  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost put together a nicely silly send-up and the cast pulls it together into a more than decent couple hours of entertainment.  It isn’t high art, but so what?  I don’t think I’ll ever be too old for the well-timed fart joke.  3 ½ stars out of 5.

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