The British comedy pals behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are back. This time they’re Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost), a pair of fanboys from the UK on a pilgrimage to the geek Mecca that is San Diego Comic-Con and to visit America’s best-known sci-fi film and UFO sites. Just as they begin their road trip, they crash into a real-life little green man named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), who’s on the run from the American government. He asks them to do him a favour, and so the ride of their lives begins.
Although a little slow in pace, Paul is cleverly written. You really have to be a nerd yourself to get the many (deliberately clichéd) sci-fi references in it. But you’re not alone, because most of the supporting characters don’t either. Apart from parodying sci-fi fandom, Pegg and Frost have a subtle go at America’s fixation with guns, God (look out for a gun-toting Jesus) and a little bit of government. The laughs are scattered throughout the film, but too many of them fall flat.
That said, Seth Rogen’s voice is perfect as Paul the articulate yet potty-mouthed, pot-smoking CG extra-terrestrial, who also has an endearingly soft side. He steals the show with Kristen Wiig’s Ruth, a dull fundamentalist Christian who Graeme and Clive meet on their adventure, and who becomes a born-again Darwinist after Paul shows her the light. It’s worth catching this movie to see Ruth making up for lost time when her repressed desires break loose.
Themes of bromance also feature strongly in this piss-taking tribute to nerds. Graeme and Clive’s innocent reaction to others’ allusions to their being gay is a real highlight. And as the script involves two Englishmen visiting America for the first time, you can expect a healthy dose of Pegg and Frost poking fun at British-American cultural differences. It’s no Shaun, that’s for sure, but there’s enough life (of all sorts) in this one to keep you entertained.