I’m not really a big sci-fi buff (in fact a friend recently berated me for admitting that I’d never seen E.T.), so a lot of the in-jokes and references in Paul (2011) were wasted on me… but there are plenty of other gags, and fun performances in there for us neophytes to enjoy.
For those who don’t know, this
remake of Race to Witch Mountain geeksploitation comedy stars scriptwriters Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as ‘Graeme Willy’ and ‘Clive Gollings’, two comic book loving limeys who have travelled to the States in order to attend the San Diego Comic-Con(vention), then round off their vacay with a R.V. road trip, taking in various sites of extraterrestrial interest. While driving down a lonely stretch of highway one night, they are passed by a car which subsequently veers off the blacktop and crashes… and when they get out to investigate, the terrified tourists discover that the sole occupant of the vehicle is a snarky, wisecracking alien named Alf ‘Paul’. The little grey hitcher throws himself on their mercy, and they agree to give him a lift to a vaguely defined destination, despite the fact he is being keenly pursued by a scary government agent, played by Jason Bateman, and his slightly less intimidating underlings, played by Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio.
Sounds like a bit of a sausage-fest, right? Well, that’s because I don’t really want to give away any major spoilers by revealing too much about the female cast members, and the roles they play. Jane Lynch has a small cameo as ‘Pat’, a waitress the boys chat to at The Little A’Le’Inn… Kristen Wiig has a major role as ‘Ruth Buggs’, a sheltered Creationist that our heroes reluctantly kidnap, when she sees too much of their stowaway spaceman… while Blythe Danner and Sigourney Weaver both show up in the final act, to steal their respective scenes, and lay the proverbial smack down. As I say, I can’t go into too much detail, but I thought Wiig in particular was hilarious here… and she’s risen considerably in my estimations, considering I didn’t even know who she was this time last year! Apparently some of her best scenes were a late addition to the screenplay, so I’m glad they made the effort to beef up her role, because she actually has some of the funniest and most memorable moments in the movie. Sadly, the inclusion of Ruth (and her fundamentalist father) has offended some Christians… and I can understand why they might feel that their faith was given rather short shrift by the writers. According to the commentary, Pegg and Frost had written a scene where Ruth and Paul have a more protracted theological debate, but it had to be cut for time/pacing reasons… personally, I don’t think the alien’s mere existence disproves that God created the Universe, it simply suggests that He/She put more time and effort into designing different creatures than we initially suspected!
Fun fact: Although Graeme and Clive intended to end their journey in New Mexico, they never actually get that far… although, ironically, the majority of the movie was filmed there… as was Thor, coincidentally enough, so I’ve seen quite a lot of that place over the last couple of days!