Paul is a road trip comedy concerning two comic book fans and their foul-mouthed alien friend and you never, ever need to see it. This film is everything that is wrong with the modern nerd-oriented subset of Hollywood, which is probably about 50% of the industry these days. How will cinema ever move forward when films like this not only rely on references to films from the past, but embody their tired formulas and humor? And if you’re under the impression that comedies don’t have any obligation other than to entertain then that’s fine, because this film doesn’t do that either. Its uninspired humor is steeped in tasteless gay jokes, excessive cursing, and possibly more winks and nods than even the nerdiest of nerds can handle. I laughed once during Paul‘s 104 minutes and that was to an inexplicable Capturing the Friedmans reference that will surely be lost on the film’s target audience.
The film’s writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have legions of fans thanks to past genre parodies like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as well as the highly referential television series Spaced. Paul is a natural extension of their humor, which has always teetered on the annoying and is now in full display as a pandering amalgam of the necessities of nerddom (Comic-Con, Star Trek, Sigourney Weaver). The film features an impressive number of generally likable supporting players who struggle for laughs including Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch, and the aforementioned Weaver. Director Greg Mottola comes across as charming and intelligent in interviews, which is why I gave his previous film Adventureland a chance. That film was terrible and so is Paul. If you find the basic act of smoking pot humorous then this film is for you.
Paul opens wide in Philadelphia-area theaters today.
P.S. As we were leaving the theater my girlfriend said “That movie was made for stoner alien audiences” and I had absolutely no idea what she meant until I remembered that weird marketing trend that the X-Files caused about 13 years ago where aliens and pot leaves and aliens smoking pot leaves were on everything. Now that stuff is confined to your local Spencer’s Gifts, which will surely see an increase in sales thanks to Paul.