Paul: Not So Out of This World
If someone were to tell me that one day I would be all like “meh” about a Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy, I would have probably laughed in their face. Perhaps longer and harder than I laughed at their latest artistic endeavor – Paul. Which is truly a bummer, because, as with many things presented at SDCC 2010, I’ve been looking forward to it since last July.
There wasn’t anything particularly WRONG with the movie itself. The cast was impressive and individually they are all talented and hilarious, but they were all so damn American. I get that the story takes place in America and features a lot of “fish out of water” humor, but who isn’t a wee bit tired of the usual comedic suspects gracing the screen?
It’s nice that Pegg and Frost were able to work with a wide array of American actors, but to be honest – this particular group of comedians has totally over-saturated the market here. Name a comedy released in the last year that hasn’t featured Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Seth Rogen or Kristen Wiig? Oh right – cause you can’t!
The joy of a Pegg/Frost venture is the infusion of some new blood into the comedy scene and a chance to revel in British humor. And I missed that.
WHAT WAS GOOD ABOUT THIS FILM
Seth Rogen is something of an oddity as an actor. He manages to play the chubby male lead quite well and people like myself find him attractive, much like Jack Black ten years ago. But some of my favorite Rogen roles of late have been voice-overs. He is not a terribly convincing actor in human form unless he’s playing a slacker, but lay his voice over an animated cartoon character, and all his charms are on display. Perhaps because the “lovable man-child” trope is just so frakin over-done at this point. It has ceased to become endearing.
What is endearing? Seth Rogen voicing monsters and aliens. Jack Black voicing Kung-Fu Pandas. Jay Baruchel voicing Hiccup, a scrawny dragon-loving viking boy. Comedians voicing animated characters somehow makes their routines and timing seem fresh and engaging again. Please, if we must see the same actors and actresses cast over and over again – mix it up a little with voice-over. Thank you.
Also loved the science fiction references, the clips of San Diego Comic Con, and the idea of an American road trip film with Aliens. Pegg/Frost clearly did their homework about some uniquely American elements. Traveling across country by RV, the xenophobia/homophobia of small town America, and the religious overtones to our society were all spot-on.
And they did bring the funny – at least every character had a moment to shine. The film itself was also fun – all the alien and science fiction references were hilarious and did not go un-noticed. This duo has excellent chemistry, they know what nerds want to see and they have a clear understanding of how to manipulate an audience in a film.
WHAT WAS NOT SO GOOD
But for some reason, as the credits rolled, I was left wanting a little bit more. More connection to the characters as in previous films…and maybe less America. The thing is – I like the Pegg/Frost conceptions of the UK. I like their use of American movie stereotypes and scenarios in British culture because the juxtaposition is what was often so endearing. The Zombie Apocalypse in Britain? Hilarious. An action film in a small British village? Yes please.
A road trip film in America does not have the same ring to it.
And there were some moments where the prominent discussion of religion vs. science clearly made the audience in our theatre uncomfortable. During a heated debate between two characters, you could literally hear a pin drop in the seats all around us. It was unexpected.
It also leads me to wonder – is that what folks in other countries think about us? I know there are a lot of areas in the country (obviously Portland is not one of them) where evolution is blasphemous and people would prefer that religion (specifically Christianity) was taught in schools in it’s place. The stereotype of certain groups of Americans as evolution-hating zealots isn’t too far from the truth.
But I wouldn’t say that is the norm for all parts of the country. So the fact that it’s included here…well, it makes me wonder if the perception in other countries as that it’s far more widespread than it really is.
Also – as mentioned before, the American cast was like “ho-hum, I’ve seen you all before you know.” I like Pegg/Frost as an opportunity to step out of the normal American comedy routine. Clearly I had incorrect expectations coming into this film.
And I missed Edgar Wright. Let it be known that I do have a thing for Edgar Wright films. Greg Mottola has helmed some pretty decent ventures, but Wright has a gift for directing funny. Did anyone else get the memo he’s directing Ant Man to be released in 2014? Get excited!
If I were to rank the Pegg/Frost films in a hierarchy, it would go something like:
2. Hot Fuzz
And maybe that’s my problem. Perhaps because I am not so secretly a zombie and action fanatic versus an alien enthusiast. My DH loved this movie and reveled in the jokes because that’s where his nerd passion lies. He’s logged far more hours in the science fiction world, memorizing Star Wars lines, than I have.
And that’s probably who this film was designed for. So enjoy it everyone. I’ll pop in “Shaun” and get warm fuzzies about zombies instead. 🙂
Bechdel Test: Paul features two female characters with names and DOES PASS the women test, PASSES the men test and features more than two minority characters who do not have names so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.
– Or perhaps, as Patton Oswalt intones here, nerd references just aren’t funny anymore and it’s time for nerd culture to die.