Thursday, 10 February 2011


What happens when two massive sci-fi geeks write a film about two massive sci-fi geeks that's aimed squarely at massive sci-fi geeks and is packed to the sprockets with massive sci-fi geekery? In the case of Paul, the answer is a big bag of nerdy funballs which scores higher on the ROFLometer than any other comedy from the last few years. Especially if you're a massive sci-fi geek.
In all honesty, the thought of another comedy from the director of Superbad and Adventureland, both of which failed to withdraw anything other than boredom from my emotion bank, combined with the prospect of Seth Rogen freewheeling his way through another tediously unfunny performance (cf. The Green Hornet) filled me with overwhelming ambivalence. But the fact that it's written by and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the two most-difficult-not-to-like people in British film, plus the casting of god amongst men Jason Bateman, was enough to make me semi-aroused.
Pegg and Frost's script - essentially a guffaw-laden love letter to Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounters, Aliens and a million other life-shaping movies - squeezes in so many references to the films they adore that it's occasionally in danger of disappearing up its own thermal exhaust port. Thankfully there are more than enough LOLs and action to back up the nerding, and by the time the perfectly-located climax comes around you're prepared to forgive the odd shoe-horning in of yet another Star Wars gag.

Unavoidably a few jokes fall flat - why obscure 1992 melodrama Lorenzo's Oil is targeted for a major pun rather than another geek touchstone is a mystery - and Greg Mottola's direction fails him in a couple of crucial but annoyingly bodged scenes towards the end, but these are easy to forgive when the rest of the film is more fun than an unsolicited anal probing.

Obligatory gush over David Arnold score: It's fantastic.


  1. Dear Incredible Suit you appear to be a sci-fi officionado. Please would you or perhaps one of your erudite commenters explain how you can ROFL in weightless space? If not possible then I will not be making the long trip to visit Fallia for a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

    By the way unless you have had personal experience of an ultrasound biopsy for prostate cancer you have no idea of what a pain in the arse is. And it is done about 10 times to collect enough samples.

    The things you joke about can have a horrible knack of showing up for real.

  2. The best thing to do is not watch Paul in weightless space. I recommend a cinema, for example. That way gravity will facilitate the necessary physics for you to ROFL yourself silly.

    Thanks for the anal probe titbits. In no way could that be described as too much information.

  3. Dark Star (1974) was a brilliant John Carpenter directed comedy sci-fi set in the space equivalent of a cargo ship on a routine run with a crew bored out of their minds with the tedium. There is a bouncing ball-like stowaway alien to contend with and best of all a planet destroying talking bomb that is accidently activated and has to be talked out of exploding. It would be interesting to know if anyone has seen both Dark Star and Paul and which has the most ROFL. Dark Star has a good music track by John Carpenter.

    [Doolittle convinces the bomb not to explode]
    Doolittle: Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?
    Bomb #20: Of course.
    Doolittle: Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
    Bomb #20: I am always receptive to suggestions.
    Doolittle: Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
    Bomb #20: Well, of course I exist.
    Doolittle: But how do you know you exist?
    Bomb #20: It is intuitively obvious.
    Doolittle: Intuition is no proof. What concrete evidence do you have that you exist?
    Bomb #20: Hmmmm... well... I think, therefore I am.
    Doolittle: That's good. That's very good. But how do you know that anything else exists?
    Bomb #20: My sensory apparatus reveals it to me. This is fun.


    [Pinback wants the bomb to disarm]
    Pinback: All right, bomb. Prepare to receive new orders.
    Bomb#20: You are false data.
    Pinback: Hmmm?
    Bomb #20: Therefore I shall ignore you.
    Pinback: Hello... bomb?
    Bomb #20: False data can act only as a distraction. Therefore, I shall refuse to perceive.
    Pinback: Hey, bomb?
    Bomb #20: The only thing that exists is myself.
    Pinback: Snap out of it, bomb.

    Much Later (& this is a spoiler)

    Bomb#20: In the beginning, there was darkness. And the darkness was without form, and void.
    Boiler: What the hell is he talking about?
    Bomb#20: And in addition to the darkness there was also me. And I moved upon the face of the darkness. And I saw that I was alone. Let there be light.

  4. Dear Mr. Tony Cox I have seen both Paul AND Dark Star. It's unfair and inappropriate to compare the two, not least because 20+ years of aggregated misanthropy and bitterness have elapsed between my first viewings but if a distinction can be drawn it would be that while Paul is funny, Dark Star is funny and transcendental.

  5. Dear Prairie Oysters, I like the word transcendental as it perfectly describes the strange atmosphere on board Dark Star with a cryogenic skipper whose body may be frozen but whose mind is not.

    I must see Dark Star again.

  6. I will probably watch this film now I know Edgar Wright isn't involved.

  7. It's definitely not terrible. I just expected so much more from Pegg, Frost, Mottola and a great supporting cast and subject. Could have been better, but it was still OK and had me laughing here and there. Rogen really does shine as Paul, even though he does nothing new here. Good review, check out mine when you can!

  8. Just caught this on DVD... wow this was painful.

    If I didn't love Spaced and SOTD you'd have a hard time convincing me Pegg & Frost had ever actually met before, so absent was their chemistry.

    Script was all over the shop, the Bill Hader character suddenly did a complete personality flip 2/3 of the way through, and Wiig was completely wasted – ooooh, swearing!

    The only time I genuinely laughed was when the old lady said the line from 'Aliens', and the Vicar of Dibley already did that better.