So what would Paul offer? Would the magic of the Pegg and Frost films we've seen before win out, or would we end up with more a Hollywood comedy with all the usual checkboxes? Well it seems the two were destined to be married together whatever the outcome and it turned out that the marriage worked perfectly well for both sides.
The first thing that you notice about Paul, and that most fans notice, is the sheer wealth of geekdom in it. Throughout there are references both big and small to other things science fiction, particularly in cinema. If you're a fan you'll see them pouring out thick and fast and the great thing is that they are just allowed to happen. There's not a huge deal made of them, no matter how big they are, they're all part of the story, part of their adventure and the film doesn't rely on them either.
This is one of the facets of the film I really enjoyed, because you don't feel like these are being laid on for you to catch, but rather these are incorporated into the story by some real fans of science fiction, some actual geeks, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and you can feel that difference as you watch the film.
However don't be put off by the idea that it's filled with such references, for even if you don't get any of the connections, you're not a geek or a science fiction fan, you'll still get plenty from it, for above all it's a comedy and it's a damn good comedy at that. There are plenty of laughs throughout the film mixing the American style comedy with the superb comedic writing and timing of Pegg and Frost who bring a distinctly British style of comedy to the film, and as I said, the two marry superbly well together.
Pegg and Frost are fantastic in the film, they play off of each other so well and they deliver their characters so believably that you are with them every step of the way. They aren't one dimensional like so many comedic characters and Pegg and Frost have written much more into them, so much so that there's plenty to identify with whomever you are. Despite the age of the characters they are written so that there's an ageless quality to them, that helps with the ability to identify with them as they experience a range of issues in life in such a short space of time, issues that people will have encountered from the young to the old. It's a clever aspect of the writing that manages to open up the potential audience and hold it well.
It isn't just the two leads who do well, although I think they are the main reason that you'll want to see Paul, a lot of the supporting actors provide strength to the film too. For me the best is Agent Zoyle, or Jason Bateman, he was a lot of fun to watch and had some great lines delivered with some superb timing and straight faces. He also has an interesting character to play who isn't as flat as you first might think.
Kirsten Wiig is a lot of fun too, although she does seem to play similar character traits in her films, the quirky, slightly odd delivery does work here and she has some funny moments and an interesting character that I'm surprised hasn't raised a few eyebrows in America, all beginning with the Jesus shooting Darwin t-shirt, which was both funny and also a rather sad comment.
The story delivers some very well conceived threads and plot turns, and filled with the excellent characters as well as some great cameos from people like Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch and Jeffrey Tambor. It also does a great job of mixing adventure, comedy and science fiction into an entertaining and enjoyable package.
I've gone all this way and not even mentioned Paul, the titular character. Now I'm not a fan of Seth Rogen, for me he represents the kind of American comedy I don't like, a lazy comedy that so often relies on sex, bodily functions and drugs for the humour, but as Paul he does really well and fits the character perfectly. Mind you, watching the character, Paul isn't that far off the ones he tends to play anyway.
The effects for Paul work almost perfectly and mould perfectly to the voice of Rogen, without this working I don't think I'd have taken to the character or the film half as well as I did. The facial expressions and lip movements match the voice and there's a lot of attention been paid to this to ensure that you'll accept the character is real. It's not just the effects that carry off the character though; it's also the other actors who manage to play such a convincing physical performance with an imaginary character that sells the reality.
Oh, and before I sum up let me just mention the musical score that features one of my favourite all time bands, E.L.O., it was great music anyway but the addition of these two tracks just helps lift the tone particularly at the end which brings it to a great feel good finish. The cowboy cantina song is particularly funny.
Paul is a well written film that not only provides for great comedy, but also appeals to all levels of geeks and science fiction fans. Packed with references, obvious and subtle, and clever writing, the excellent cast makes the film with great performances from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Jason Bateman that let you end up liking all the characters involved, all except the big guy of course.
For Pegg and Frost this is another worthy addition to their careers, another strong film that does marry Hollywood and British comedy very well and produces something that appeals to all manner of audiences. Paul is a fun adventure comedy for geeks and non-geeks that fits well alongside Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.