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The alien Paul, left, voiced by Seth Rogen, and Graeme Willy, played by the British comedian Simon Pegg.
The alien Paul, left, voiced by Seth Rogen, and Graeme Willy, played by the British comedian Simon Pegg.

Movie review: Paul

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost put their own spin on the sci-fi genre, but the film is below their usual standard.

Director: Greg Mottola Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman and Seth Rogen

The British comedy duo Pegg and Frost have established themselves as one of film's funniest on-screen pairings.

After putting a comedic twist on the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead and taking shots at cop films with Hot Fuzz, the duo have zeroed in on science fiction with Paul.

This time both Pegg and Frost attempt to bring their undeniable on-screen chemistry to the page in their first co-written film effort.

The result is a film that may not be as cutting as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but instead is an intergalactic crowd pleaser catering to both the sci-fi geeks and regular audiences.

Graeme and Clive (Pegg and Frost) are fanboys embarking on the ultimate geek's trip across America. Their journey first takes in the comic-book conference Comic-Con in San Diego, before a cross-country drive visiting famous extraterrestrial sites such as Roswell and Area 51.

However, their travel plans go awry after a van crashes in front of them. Surveying the wreckage, the boys discover that an alien was behind the wheel.

But this extraterrestrial is not the warm-and-fuzzy type. He matter-of-factly states that his name is Paul, he is on the run from suited government agents and now the boys must aid his escape.

The boys make one more pit-stop where they unwittingly kidnap Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a dim-witted caravan park attendant, before cruising down America's highways, dodging bullets from the shadowy agents and Ruth's shotgun-wielding father.

While the storyline seems straightforward and zany enough to warrant immediate laughs, the film was close to killing off its potential, courtesy of the horribly boring 15-minute opening sequence in which Graeme and Clive visit Comic-Con. In an overwrought montage, we see the boys happily take snaps with a variety of costume and mask-wearing attendees.

Instead of using the conference to make some comical jabs, Pegg and Frost's script approaches it with undue deference. Perhaps they viewed the event as too much of a sacred cow to skewer, but the results will leave only the most diehard of comic book fans amused.

The dull tone continues when they check into a hotel room to discover the hotel has mistakenly offered them a single bed, which unfortunately leads to some predictable gags more at home in a sitcom than a feature film.

After such a disappointing build-up, Seth Rogan is a revelation as the voice of Paul. While some critics felt his star could be falling after the poorly received Green Hornet, Rogen reminds us of the sheer zest he has injected into the comedy scene since Knocked Up.

Rogen's laconic drawl is perfect for Paul, and it is through his slacker personality that he brings out the tension between his three travelling companions. The uptight Clive is jealous that Paul immediately hits it off with Graeme while at the same time a romance between Graeme and Ruth is facilitated.

But the film does not invest too much energy in that relationship, preferring to pack in the gags through car chases or sideways nods to classic sci-fi films and television programmes.

What makes the film more fun is that some of the genre's biggest names are thrown into the mix: one should look out for Sigourney Weaver and Steven Spielberg, who both make memorable cameo appearances.

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