Spoiler Free Synopsis: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are British nerds on a road-trip of America’s alieniest sites. They encounter a real alien known as Paul and hyjinks ensue as they fight to evade federal agents, hillbillies and the worst that the bible-belt can throw at them.
Review in Short: This is a very nerdy movie. If you are a sci-fi nerd this was made for you. It is funny, but I suspect much of the humor would be lost on non-nerds. It also succeeds at being heart warming and genuine in the portrayal of friendship, camaraderie, and culture shock. Finally it is entirely unforgiving in its treatment of fundamentalist Christian dogma.
Highly recommended for anyone who can appreciate a comic-con and a road trip with a few buddies. Not at all recommended for first dates or the faithful.
Spoilers after the break
Paul glorifies and satirizes nerd culture. The two main characters are extremely familiar nerd archetypes. They lack style, grace and eloquence in the expected manner but somehow manage to do it without being insulting or overly awkward to watch. Their interactions come off as mostly genuine and the chemistry between all of the characters, even the CG alien, feels honest.
The entire film is littered with sci-fi references. There is a Harem of Slave Leias, a reenactment of a gorn battle, even some furry appreciation (mmm… ewok love). Paul was clearly made by nerds, for nerds. Anyone outside the bubble is going to be a little lost.
The only really surprising thing about Paul is the treatment of religion. There is an all out shouting match between a bible-belt fundamentalist and the alien over intelligent design. Even upon seeing the alien the good Christian calls him a demon and refuses to believe that he could be what he says he is. I won’t go into all of the details but Paul, with no real reservation, states that fundamentalists are wrong, their faith is a prison and science can set them free… to curse and fornicate. Slightly more subtly stated is that having faith in your fellow man might be a better way. The only apology for any of this is that a bible does catch a bullet at one point.
I’m extremely curious as to how the Christian community is going to react to this.
Being a skeptic art blog I thought I should also bring up the alien cover-up, government conspiracy angle. I’m not sure what more to say about it, though. It’s there. The plot is based on all of us accepting that the government hiding aliens is something we already know about and can, at the very least, suspend out disbelief over. I don’t think that the film demands that you be a believer, but it certainly doesn’t question you for being one.