by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic
"Paul" Spoofs Science Fiction Flicks with lots of Sandler Humor

“Paul” reunites stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, most known for their starring roles in Edgar Wright’s zombie-comedy “Shaun of the Dead” and his cop-spoof “Hot Fuzz,” in a film that attempts to spoof science-fiction films using three different kinds of humor.

This is the first time these two have also teamed up on the screenplay (the previous two films mentioned were co-written by Pegg and Wright), so it was going to be interesting to see what the result would be from these two guys who are usually quite funny.

The story begins several years ago when a spaceship crashes on Earth, killing a little girl’s dog. It then flashes forward about 60 years where we meet Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), two sci-fi fanatics from England who are touring UFO hotspots of America. While touring one of these spots in the middle of the desert, they come across an alien named Paul (Voice of Seth Rogen) who requests their help in getting where he needs to go.

After some initial hesitation, Graeme agrees to help (Clive had passed out, so he couldn’t really give his opinion). Paul tells Graeme to head north, so without knowing where they’re specifically headed, he does so. As a fan of science-fiction, how could he not? Meanwhile, some secret service agents led by Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) are on their trail, following any clues they can find in order to track them down.

As I mentioned earlier, the film basically uses three different kinds of humor, and while there are some funny parts, there just aren’t enough to carry the whole film. The main reason that only some of them are funny is because certain jokes are overused, and a lot of them weren’t even funny in the first place.

The worst kind of humor they use is something we can dub “Sandler Humor” (i.e. references to genitalia, excrement, and bodily fluids). Throughout the film, there are several references to Paul’s alien genitalia that they must have thought were funny when it actually isn’t getting much of a laugh at all. They also try to squeeze in a few jokes about how Clive urinates on himself when he passes out after seeing Paul for the first time. No laughs to be had their either.

The second kind is the running joke. At the beginning of the film, Graeme and Clive attend Comic-Con and meet a science fiction author that they both admire. A joke continues running through the film where most people have no idea who he is, and later on, of course, somebody else knows exactly who he is. This running gag worked alright, but then there was another one involving a passenger they pick up later on who decides to leave her religious roots behind and take up cursing. She tries to put together random strings of nonsensical curse words throughout the rest of the film, but it just never comes off as funny.

Finally, there’s the reference humor (i.e. references to multiple science-fiction and other films). It seems like Pegg and Frost tried to squeeze as many of these references in as they possibly could, quoting from such films as “Star Wars” and “E.T.,” while throwing in other references to “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Star Trek,” “Predator,” and “Back to the Future” among others. While these aren’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny, they were slightly amusing. It was also fun to try and find all these little references.

The story itself was kind of slow-going. Aside from the humor, it felt like the film was a series of driving episodes followed by narrow escapes. It’s not a bad film by any means, it was just slightly disappointing especially when you take into account the talents of Pegg and Frost. If you’ve seen “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” you know just how funny these guys can be. Hopefully they’ll get back together with writer/director Edgar Wright very soon and make another unforgettable comedy spoof, filled to the brim with great jokes and the better level of humor they’re all known for. 2.5/4 stars.