I’m a sucker for parodies when they’re done well, and Paul is just that, a sarcastic, crude parody of all those great alien films we’ve grown up with, notably including E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He’s three feet tall, can become invisible if he holds his breath, and talks like he’s been trapped in a fraternity house for the last thirty years. And he’s damn funny, as voiced by Seth Rogen.
Sci-fi comic geeks Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) have realized a lifelong dream to fly from England to San Diego to attend Comic-Con and try to pimp their new graphic novel Jelva: Alien Queen of the Varvak. What better thing to do after the nerdfest than rent an RV and take a scenic tour of all the important UFO sites in America? That’s when they bump into Paul and end up shuttling him away from danger, even as they get into one pickle after another with a variety of oddballs.
They are, of course, chased by mysterious Men In Black, led by the tough Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman, amusingly deadpan). These government agents are directed by The Big Guy who is an inspired bit of casting. ‘nuf said on that topic! Along the way, the boys spend the night at the Pearly Gates RV park and meet the cute Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig). She’s a rabid evangelical Christian, wearing an “Evolve This!” t-shirt that depicts Jesus shooting Darwin. Nice. She ends up coming along for the ride, and the discussion between her and Paul about intelligent design vs. evolution offers a few surprisingly thoughtful observations.
But don’t worry, the thoughtful part doesn’t last long and they’re soon back on the road trying to evade the Men in Black, Ruth’s crazy dad Moses (John Carroll Lynch) and two rednecks whose truck they’ve inadvertently damaged. It’s consistently fun, funny and silly. If you’re looking for a thoughtful movie about aliens, well, maybe Battle Los Angeles is a better film. If you’re just looking to have fun in a movie that has more insider film, comic-book and sci-fi references than you can count, then I encourage you to grab a big bucket o’ popcorn and go enjoy Paul.