Comic-Con is a fitting place for 'Paul' to begin, since it plays out like a geeky love letter to many of the biggest sci-fi movies ever. Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are from England, and they've come to the states not only to visit Comic-Con, but to also take a RV tour of the nation's most famous UFO hotspots. They're nuts for aliens. The visit sites like the Black Mailbox and even reenact Captain Kirk's infamous battle with the Gorn. Yeah, these guys are geeks through and through.
It's no spoiler to announce that 'Paul' is about a wise-cracking, cuss-happy alien named Paul. Paul is comprised completely of CG effects with the voice of Seth Rogen giving him that very anti-'ET' feel. If you wished that ET were a little edgier, swore a little more, and smoked copious amounts of pot, well Paul is your type of alien.
Paul bonds with the two sci-fi nerds rather quickly. He's on the run from the government, who wants to experiment on him. Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) leads the charge with two dim-witted agents in tow, Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio).
That's about all you need to know about 'Paul's plot. It isn't rocket science. Two geeks take a road trip with an alien and hijinks ensue. Greg Mottola, director of 'Superbad,' takes the helm and leads us through a fairly funny trip. It isn't laugh-out-loud hilarious like 'Superbad,' but once you get past all the jokes about bodily functions and weed there's a heart to this movie. Like many of today's R-rated comedies, Mottola inserts some tender moments just like he did in 'Superbad'.
Pegg and Frost have become famous on this side of the pond for their British-tailored comedies like 'Hot Fuzz' and 'Shaun of the Dead.' Even though those movies were made with British humor they still did well over here. 'Paul' lacks a lot of the subtlety and dry wit that made those movies funny. Essentially this is Pegg and Frost taking on a more Americanized slapstick movie. The results are mixed. While it isn't as clever as their other comedic ventures, it does have quite a bit going for it.
I've grown tired of CGI over the past few years. It seems like it's becoming more and more common for filmmakers not to do in-camera effects. Except, I didn't mind the CG alien in 'Paul' at all, mostly because it's believable animation. It works in the context of the movie. It's point isn't to wow us with the awesomeness of technology, but to tell the story. Paul looks realistic – well, as realistic as a little green man with an elongated head could look – without looking completely phony. Much like Gollum from 'Lord of the Rings.'
Where 'Paul' gets held up is that when it's all boiled down, the film is essentially the same road trip movie you've seen so many times before. The group meets nefarious characters along the way. They take on a few stragglers to keep the banter funny, like a religious zealot played by Kristen Wiig.
This isn't the best collaboration by Pegg and Frost. It would have been funnier if it had displayed the same sardonic wit as their previous movies. Also, it must be mentioned that people who claim that they're Seth Rogen-ed out will indeed find this one a chore to get through. 'Paul' is Seth Rogen if Rogen was an alien. End of story. There's nothing different about him. If you find Rogen irritating then there's a good chance you'll be annoyed by Paul. I enjoyed the movie to a degree. There are a few hearty laughs here and there, but 'Paul' lacks the clever spirit that is at the heart of the Pegg/Frost matchup.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal has packaged 'Paul' into an Unrated Combo Pack. The package includes a 50GB Dual Layer disc, and a DVD copy that also contains the Digital Copy. As far as the unrated version goes, it's purportedly six minutes longer (theatrical is 104 minutes while the unrated is 110 minutes). I saw the movie in theaters and when I watched the Blu-ray copy I watched the unrated version. Truthfully, I caught only one scene that I recognized as being cut from the original version – a hotel valet yells profanity at some ungracious tippers dressed like orcs. Other than that there aren't any other scenes that stand out as being different or noteworthy. Just another "unrated" version that fails to actually provide anything of real substance to the movie.
Universal has minted a pitch-perfect transfer for 'Paul.' It's almost impossible to expect anything less from a big budget movie that was recently filmed. It's true that most of the movie relies on the fairly simple slightly boosted contrast look of a comedy, but there are a few moments where you'll realize how great this transfer really is.
Chief among those moments is the look of Paul himself. I was impressed with the CG when I first saw this in theaters. Seeing it on Blu-ray made me love it even a little more. Take Paul's eyes for instance, they're intricately designed and the HD makes them pop that much more. It's easy to get lost – in a completely un-cheesy way – in them. Fine detail doesn't stop there, the human characters have their fair share of revealing close ups. Colors pop perfectly, skintones are completely natural, and there's an explosion later on in the movie that features some brilliantly colored yellows and oranges.
Blacks are sufficiently inky, without a hint of crush creeping in. I didn't notice a hint of aliasing, banding, haloing or anything else that would distract from the viewing experience. 'Paul' is as demo-worthy as any other movie out there, especially during its more action packed scenes.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix doesn't let up either. For the most part 'Paul' plays it close to the chest with its intimate face-to-face dialogue, but there are times where the mix shines just as much as the video (and they're usually at the same moments).
The first time you really get a feel of the punch this audio presentation is packing is when Paul violently wrecks his getaway car. It flips end over end with metal crunching and creaking under the weight. Surrounds light up with the havoc being wreaked by the rollover. LFE booms during the big explosion scene, and rumbles the room.
Dialogue is always intelligible. Directionality not only works perfectly for off screen talkers, but subtle placement of special effects like a door closing slightly off to the left. Surrounds are constantly engaged in producing lifelike ambient sound whether it be the milling about of townsfolk or the whirring machinery of a spaceship. I was just as impressed with 'Paul's audio as I was its video.
'Paul' isn't the funniest movie you'll see, and it definitely isn't the best from Pegg and Frost, but it's a decently funny way to spend 100 plus minutes. I guess in the end I wished for more sarcastic, dry British wit coming from these two guys rather than a movie that felt a little too slapstick for its own good. Thankfully, the Blu-ray looks and sounds great, and there's a heavy smattering of special features to keep everyone interested. 'Paul' comes recommended.