Friday, April 26, 2013

On the Road with Paul

He's Not Evil. He's Just Rude 

W hat do you get when a creationist meets an extraterrestrial? Well, that is just one of the many questions that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost try to answer in the duo's latest offering, Paul. Kristin Wiig from "Saturday Night Live," joins the cast as Simon Pegg's love interest. Her part as a Jesus freak brings another layer of comedy to this already sidesplitting film. The nerdy Brits run into her along the way, while running from the FBI. Leading the charge in search of the alien, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan), is Jason Bateman as the crazy ass agent who will stop at nothing as he pursues Pegg and company across the back roads of the USA's UFO trail. Throw in a fanatical father with a bible in one hand, and a shotgun in the other, two infantile rookie FBI agents and you have the makings for some crazy laughs. Paul has an R rating for language mature themes, and yet the theater was packed with preteen kids.

If the premise of Paul seems a little too familiar, that is because you have seen it somewhere before in several Steven Spielberg films. The two movies that Pegg and Frost parody the most are "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "E.T the Extraterrestrial." However, Paul is also quite a bit more than just that. Pegg and Frost have penned a story that not only spoof Spielberg, but also take aim at the whole of the Sci-Fi pop culture. They poke it, they play with it, they take some extraordinary liberties with it, and they present it back to you with a charm and nostalgia that reminds one of a Crosby and Hope Road picture. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play two fan-boys from England, illustrator Graeme Willy and author Clive Gollings, as they journey on holiday to Comic Con Vegas to meet and greet their hero, author Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor). They find him rude and obnoxious, not just to them, but all his fans. The two friends are about to embark on a zany adventure of the American Southwest in true Twilight Zone fashion. However, sixty years prior in Moorcroft Wyoming, a German Shepherd named Paul wakes at night to an eerie display of lights and noise, pawing at the beam of light shining under the door, little Tara, opens the door, and the dog runs out. Classic scenes from "CEot3rdK" depicting a windmill, and bright lights, the dog barking, Tara calling to her dog, lights getting brighter, a space ship is landing - - but no -- it crashes on top of the dog killing it instantly. Do you see where this is going?

After some awkward scenes in a hotel after the convention, their sexuality is questioned, the subject of immigration is poked at, and the details of their road trip explained in detail. Like following the pilgrim trail from the Eastern Empire, the two set out to explore America. From reenacting Kirk's fight with the Gorn at Vasquez Rocks, to locating the infamous black mailbox in the lonely desert, the two are having the time of their lives. The film includes the typical encounter with the local yokels, which allows for some Deliverance references, and all this before the two meet Paul. The meeting is comical, and for two Sci-Fi nuts, the meeting isn't all that predictable. Frost faints and wets himself and it is up to Pegg and Paul to get him back into their RV. Seth Rogan ("The Green Hornet") voices Paul, and from what I can gather, acts out the part himself while dressed in a special effects suit like Andy Serkis who played Gollum in "LOTR" wore. Depicting Paul as the conventional "little green man with big eyes and long fingers," the film explains that the aliens were just trying to get us used to them before they came here. Apparently, Paul isn't very good at driving cars or at flying spaceships.

What we find out from Paul, is that for the last 60 years the government kept him locked up in Area 51 (picture the room where the government stashed the Ark of the Covenant after Raiders of the Lost Ark). In all this time, he has been acting as a consultant for the US Military and for director Steven Spielberg (he plays himself). Paul is irreverent, sarcastic, crude, rude, and hilarious. When the fellas ask him if he was going to probe them, his reply was " Why does everyone always assume that? What am I doing? Am I harvesting farts? How much can I learn from an ass? " Much of the dialog runs this course. Other dialog has to do with pop culture and ranges from scenes where Agent Zoil (Bateman) pays homage to Han Solo as he shoots the radio in his car and exclaims "boring conversation anyway." In another scene, Pegg, while drawing Paul reclining on a couch, reminds one from a scene from "Titanic" "Are you gonna draw me like your French girls, Jack?" The odd part was that many of the young kids in the theater got a lot of these jokes, even the dirty ones.

Either from the "X Files" or the "Men in Black" series (you choose), dark suited FBI agents are on the hunt. Leading a pair of incompetent rookies is Agent Zoil, played by Jason Bateman. I think Bateman has found his niche in the movies as a solid supporting actor in this and the many films in which he appears. A couple of films where his performances shine are Hancock, Juno, Up in the Air, and The Kingdom. Agents Haggard and O'Reilly look surprisingly familiar, as they are both Superbad alumni. Bill Hader, one of the cops in the aforementioned film, plays Haggard and Joe Lo Truglio portrays Agent O'Reilly. You may remember Joe as the driver in "Superbad," or from "Role Models." Jane Lynch, who is everywhere now, makes a couple of brief appearances, as well as many recognizable character actors filling in the cast in minor supporting roles.
So, when it comes to aliens, who would you want on your side, backing you up or kicking their asses for you, huh? Would you want Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Superman, Schwarzenegger, or Adrien Brody? As Richard Dawson would say on TV's "Family Feud" - "And the answer is:" Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. Who else has kicked more alien ass than Sigourney Weaver? Weaver is "The Big Guy," taking over the case in order to clean up the mess Zoil and his cohorts made while tracking Paul down. Although Paul is a comedy, people do die horrible fiery deaths in this movie, which the film just shrugs off. Director Greg Mottola, whose credits include the successful teen cult hit "Superbad" as well as Adventureland, pulls out all the stops to get a laugh. As the audience should be more mature than his teen flicks, you find that both Pegg and Frost are just big goofs at heart.
Like the Crosby and Hope Road pictures, there is a girl in this movie too. Kristin Wiig plays Ruth Buggs. She is the daughter of the trailer park owner where the three are staying. Ruth lives an almost solitary life with her father, who raised her to be a fanatical fundamentalist Christian. Wiig gets into her part and goes along playing the demented Christian, the foul-mouthed rebel, the stereotypical first time pot smoker, and the bounty hunter. So the question begs an answer, what happens when a girl who wears a shirt depicting Jesus shooting Charles Darwin say when confronted by an alien being? The answer is; watch the movie!


Movie Data

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Year:  2011
Staring:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio 
Director: Greg Mottola
Producer(s): Eric Fellner, Nira Park
Writer: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Rating: R
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: 3/18/2011
Originally published on 3/21/2011 with Associated Content/Yahoo Voices