Paul (2011)

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kirsten Wiig, Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Jeffrey Tambor,

Directed by: Greg Mottola

Rating: 1 2 3

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Paul

When a film is described as a 'homage' it can go one of two ways. Like Identity, Red Velvet or Be Kind Rewind, it can cherry pick much loved themes and influences and transform them alchemically into something completely new and fabulous. Or, like Van Helsing, it can plunder and pillage old movies recklessly and patch them together into some God-awful Frankensteinian disaster.

With the marvellous Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in their back pockets, it was a fairly safe bet that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's new film, Paul, would fall firmly into the former category too. A loving tribute to spaceman sci-fi, this charming alien road movie tips its hat to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, Alien, The X-Files and many, many more that I'm probably not quite geeky enough to get (go me!).

Paul the alien, voiced by Seth Rogen

After fulfilling a lifelong dream to attend Comic-Con, best buds Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) set off on an RV road trip round the alien landing sites of America. But their journey is quickly derailed when they pick up a real life extra terrestrial in the skinny green form of chain-smoking, wise-cracking galactic refugee Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen. Paul crash-landed in Wyoming in 1947, and since then has been living a cushy life in Area 51. But he's now outlived his usefulness, and, under threat of an alien autopsy, is on the run.

Cue a string of amusing incidents as the hapless trio lurch through the desert, pursued by the steely Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who's accompanied by the world's worst Men In Black ever and overseen by a mysterious female sci-fi superstar boss – now who could that be…?

Jane Lynch in Paul

'Amusing'. Damning with faint praise? Because, while it's hard to wipe the smile off your face during this film, Paul simply doesn't provide the hilarious belly laughs of Shaun or Hot Fuzz. Sure, it's well written, witty and full of clever references and entertaining cameos (Glee's Jane Lynch is particularly fine) but it's simply not laugh-out-loud funny. Edgar Wright, where are you when we need you?

Yet, despite the fruity language, knob jokes and somewhat over-written characters, in the true tradition of Spielberg's alien epics, Paul is also delightfully sweet, at heart a movie about unlikely friendships that's aims to be as touching as ET.

If you're wanting to laugh your ass off, stick with Hot Fuzz; but if, like Agent Mulder (who Paul invented, of course), you want to believe, this is the film for you.

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