Close encounter of the British kind: “Paul”

“E.T.: The Extraterrestrial” was an unforgettable movie. It was heartwarming and it created a relationship between man and extraterrestrial that was, well, I guess…human. What “E.T.” didn’t have though, was an alien voiced by Seth Rogen, who usually plays a stoner-type. Combine that with a story written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and a stellar comedy cast that includes Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, David Koechner, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiigg, Joe Lo Truglio and Blythe Danner and you have “Paul,” a hilarious comedy about the relationship between man and man-child-type alien.

This plot is really not that complicated. Paul (Rogen) is an alien who crash-landed on earth in the 1940s. After being locked away for more than 60 years, he escaped from the restricted government area where he was being held and is now trying to get home. Clive (Frost) and Graeme (Pegg) are British fanboys who have traveled to America to attend the Mecca of all things “geeky,” ComicCon, plus other famous American U.F.O. landmarks. However, their vacation is slightly altered when they run into Paul, and then decide that they have to help him.

From there the film becomes a road trip movie with a dash of suspense because the trio is being chased by a very intense government agent played by Jason Bateman. He wants to kill Paul. But don’t be mistaken. Road trip movie or not, this movie is comedy from beginning to end. Pegg and Frost have done it again. The duo who turned the zombie genre on its head with the immensely popular “Shaun of the Dead” does the exact same thing for the science-fiction genre. Believe me; no alien has ever been portrayed this way. Paul smokes weed, makes college-humor-type jokes, and acts more human than the slightly awkward Clive and Graeme.

Now, if there’s anything that’s easy to make fun of in these modern times of ours, it’s the geekiness of the people who read more graphic novels than actual novels and who frequent the Apple store more than they do Starbucks. So I thought this movie was going to be just a bunch of jokes at their expense.  However, Pegg and Frost could never make fun of that because they’d be making fun of themselves. They are geeks, and I say that as a compliment.

And let’s face it, geekiness is all around us. Whether we’re watching “Attack of the Show” or being made fun of for not knowing how much RAM our computer holds, we live in a world of geeks. There’s no attack on geekiness in this film. Instead, it’s an all-out celebration of it. From tributes to “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” “E.T.” and, heck, in a way, even to “Mork and Mindy,” let’s face it, geeky is the way to be in 2011.

But what Pegg and Frost do best in their writing is bring out the heart that is slowly surfacing through all the laughter. Paul is an incredibly lovable character, as are Graeme and Clive. As they experience the quirky conflicts of their journey, their friendship grows, and toward the end you feel a little warmer inside. That’s how they got us in “Shaun of the Dead.” It wasn’t just zombies. It was zombies with heart, though that sounds like an oxymoron.

At the end of the day, “Paul” is simply one of the best comedies to come out in months. Pegg and Frost keep making great films. Now, they are making a statement that whether you like it or not, they’re not going anywhere. So get used to these boys from across the pond and their very special brand of filmmaking. Let’s hope they keep it coming.

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