Not to excuse indifference to bloggerly responsibilities on my part, but Paul is the kind of movie that isn’t a lot of fun to review. It’s not terrible, there aren’t any glaring inconsistencies, but it just doesn’t quite work. It’s just not that funny. It’s usually cute, but not quite laugh-worthy, and occasionally obnoxious, but not quite grating. The word that most comes to mind is “thin.” It’s trivial. It’s the acquaintance you always tell yourself you should call more but don’t, and deep down you know exactly why.
It’s a bit of a blue-ball dry rub considering the people involved. I loved director Greg Mottola’s last two movies (Superbad and Adventureland), and getting the double-team from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who also wrote the script) is almost always a good thing. The plot, two nerds find a wacky alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) and have to help it escape the US government that wants to study its brain and harvest its penises for fuel or whatever, is cribbed from the standard 80s-alien-movie formula (ET, Mac & Me, etc). But rather than the clever genre homage seen in the Pegg co-written (with Edgar Wright, whose influence might have been needed here) Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, or the glowy, rich nostalgia of Mottola’s last two movies, what we get instead is just a series of throwaway references to every 80s alien movie, like they wrote it by going down a checklist. Reese’s Pieces reference goes here… okay now what? Not homage, not parody, just, as my co-viewer Brendan from the Frotcast put it, “one long wink.”
Winking at the audience can be fine, but… you should probably tell a joke first.