Paul US 2011
Directed by Greg Mottola
Playing at selected good and marginally
tolerable cinemas across the UK now!
Warning! The article doesn’t this time include any really aPauling spoilers in it... but I had to go ahead with a spoiler warning anyway so I didn’t waste that aPauling pun!
It’s strange. I might have said this before but when I go and see a movie directed by Edgar Wright and which has Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in it then I tend to have a bizarre delayed reaction to said movie. Usually my first viewing ends up a little “meh” and then I feel sufficiently haunted by the odd memorable scene or two to go back to the cinema again and then it all hits me properly the second time around and I find myself having a really good time with it. That’s exactly what happened to me with both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz... it didn’t happen with Spaced (I liked that straight off although I was a post-Shaun watcher) but then again... that was a TV show, not a movie.
So anyway... when Scott Pilgrim VS The World came out I thought this curse of the delayed whammy and necessity to double dip into my cinema entrance budget would be broken and future generations of my family line would be able to go and see movies by “The Wrightster” free from the threat of the insidious “meh but interesting” response and it’s debilitating effects on the family coffers. However, as I probably mentioned in this review “right here”, I had exactly the same kind of delayed response to a Wright movie without the presence of “The Peggster” and “The Frostier” in it and so, by this point, I was pretty sure that it was a reaction to Edgar Wright as opposed to the two starry stars who populated his first two features.
But then I went to see Paul. Which I was quite looking forward to because I like Pegg and Frost together, think they have great onscreen chemistry and I really needed a laugh as I was, and have been, feeling pretty downhearted of late (please leave sympathy or possible promises of money in the comments section below this article).
And that was two weeks ago. And I’ve only got around to writing up this review now.
“Why have you only got around to writing up this review now?”, I hear you ask inside my head in something resembling faint interest but which doesn’t try too hard to disguise the element of mock enthusiasm in your tone.
Well I’m glad you ask. Basically because I had exactly the same delayed effect to Paul, a film which stars these two actors but, in this instance, was not directed by Edgar Wright. And so I’m kinda wondering what’s going on now. The film is loaded, absolutely choc full o’ science-fiction and fantasy references and so, of course, I’ve now had to come to the conclusion that films by these kinds of people are so jam packed with eclectic, postmodern allusions that my poor mind needs to take it all in on the first sitting before it can begin to relax and take in the bigger “surface details” of these kinds of films on their own merit. That’s my latest theory anyway.
So I wanted to give Paul a fair crack is what happened and so I went back to see it again but, this time, instead of going by myself and sitting somewhere out of the way where I could hide in my little, black leather raincoat, I took a girl with me who I knew would laugh (and jump) at anything she saw on screen and that way, if I didn’t have a good time with it, I could always use her to gauge what my reactions should possibly have been during certain scenes (and maybe ask her to explain some of the more “young peoples” references should I have not gotten them).
So there I was, armed with my double scoop of Cherry Garcia/Cookie Dough Mix ice cream in one hand and a young, enthusiastic (okay, possibly giggly) girl in the other (metaphorically). True the girl in question is married and, true, ‘tis not to me, but I still trust her enough as a gauge for “what normal people like” and by that point the ice cream had frozen my few remaining brain cells anyway.
As it turned out... I needn’t have worried. On my second viewing, free from the strain of trying to spot as many sci-fi references as possible, I found that Paul was not the mere amalgam of overwrought set pieces I’d first perceived it as and that it’s actually a movie with a guiding and warm heart and it actually hangs together quite well on it’s own and ends up being a movie much more than the sum of it’s parts.
There’s a lot of good things going on in Paul... there’s some nice comic acting and some more than competent comic timing in the movie (not least from the film’s titular CGI alien character voiced by Seth Rogen) and a nice little twist from one of the characters that some people may not actually see coming... all wrapped up with a romantic subplot which may feel a little tagged on but sentimental old fools like myself are a sucker for that kind of stuff. There’s also a nice sense of set up/follow up throughout which I hadn’t noticed the first time around and which helps give the movie a sense of cohesion and self-containedness (despite the numerous references). For example, the scene where Paul resurrects a bird from death and the subsequent fate of that bird (which had my friend in hysterics in the chair next to me) is used to establish certain traits of the main character so it can be used to set up a scene towards the end of the movie.
I think, if I’d have stayed with my first impression of this movie I would have basically reported that it’s an entertaining enough, geeky movie made by geeks for geeks. As it happens, it is, but my friend who I took with me, Orange Monkey, also got a lot out of it and I know most of the gazillion or so Star Trek references would have meant nothing to her. It’s a testament to the writing and directing on this picture that the movie manages to successfully straddle a thin line between geekery incoherence and warm-hearted fun without straying too far into either territory to begin alienating any of the possible audiences that this film may find. A nimble trick and one which a few modern filmakers might do well to learn from.
And for those people who regularly read my blog reviews (and thanks for that, it means a lot to me), yes I will be getting this one on DVD when it gets a release... so that’s a big thumbs up right there then. For people who don’t regularly read my blog... go check out Paul. It’s a nice little movie with a fair few inventive homages to science-fiction classics and it has its heart very much in the right place.
Oh... and, yeah, I almost forgot... it’s kinda funny too. Especially when you see how Simon Pegg dances!