Paul proves that these children of science fiction have bloomed into a rotten bunch indeed.
In tone and theme, Paul is the spiritual companion of the Ricky Gervais “comedy” The Invention of Lying. Both films are led by popular British personalities, supported by an ensemble of American talent, and feature the one joke which gives way to a platform for atheistic preaching. Both are also duds.
It is a shame, because the combo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost has given us two of the better comedies of recent memory in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Needless to say, Paul doesn’t reach the standards of those films.
Pegg and Frost star as Graeme and Clive, two Brit geeks in America touring the popular UFO hotspots. When they come across a car wreck, they are shocked to find an extraterrestrial looming in the shadows. His name is Paul, a dope smoking, penis flashing, and foul mouthed alien on the run from the government. An impressive CGI creation, he is suitably voiced by Seth Rogen, ie. suitably annoying and moronic.
Together the trio head north to a spot where Paul’s comrades can whisk him away to his home planet. During their trip they plough through a succession of clichés. Volatile red neck hillbillies in a pickup truck? Check. Gun happy police officers? Check. Christian fundamentalists with shotgun over bible? Double check.
It is the last part which especially got this critic grinding his teeth. A scene featuring an evangelical Christian named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and Paul arguing over the origins of the universe ends with him placing his palm on her head, and transmitting all of his knowledge of creation into her mind, thus saving her from the darkness of Christianity and into the light of science.
Of course, it is stereotypical nonsense. Religious peoples have been contributors to and supporters of scientific endeavours for centuries and still are. Yet such is the moronic notions of our day and age that people, especially those that made this film, are happy to stick by their prejudices.
That Paul is directed by Greg Mottola is telling. His films thus far have featured much anti-religious rhetoric, especially evident in the blatant anti-Catholicism of Adventureland.
Sure, there are some aspects of Paul that are worthwhile. Pegg and Frost always have good chemistry, a talented supporting cast featuring the likes of Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, and Bill Hader have their moments, and sci-fi lovers will get a kick out of the obvious references to numerous classics of the genre.
Yet forgotten is that once upon a time, science fiction and religion were once compatible. Look at the golden age classic of The Day the Earth Stood Still and its evoking of the Sermon on the Mount, or Star Wars and its references to a spiritual force, and even the Christ figure found in E.T.
Much too ripe with prejudicial stereotype to pass off as breezy entertainment, Paul is nothing more than a low mans attempt on religous commentary, made by people who should no better.