Review: Sci-Fi Spoof 'Paul'

A reviews of "Paul," a sci-fi spoof from the folks who made the zombie-flick spoof "Shaun of the Dead," and the buddy-cop spoof "Hot Fuzz."

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Actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are developing a cottage industry in movie spoofery. They first co-starred in "Shaun of the Dead," a parody of zombie flicks. Then they made a spoof of buddy-cop movies called "Hot Fuzz." And Bob Mondello says their latest effort, called "Paul," takes aim at the world of science fiction.

BOB MONDELLO: Two British nerds, having soaked up the geek vibe of San Diego's Comic-Con, hop into an RV for what they figure will be the road trip of a lifetime: a pilgrimage to America's UFO-friendly Southwest.

Graeme and Clive can't wait to see Area 51, the town of Roswell, maybe some evidence of close encounters. Then they actually have a close encounter.

(Soundbite of film, "Paul")

Mr. SETH ROGEN (Actor): (As Paul) Uh, hi. I'm Paul.

MONDELLO: And Clive promptly faints.

(Soundbite of film, "Paul")

Mr. SIMON PEGG (Actor): (As Graeme Willy) What have you done to him?

Mr. ROGAN: (As Paul) He fainted.

Mr. PEGG: (As Graeme) Yeah, but you made him faint.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) But it's not like I set my phaser to faint.

Mr. PEGG: (As Graeme) You've got a phaser?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) Oh, God.

Mr. PEGG: (As Graeme) Are you going to probe us?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) Why does everyone always assume that?

MONDELLO: Paul, who is about four feet tall, with a gray spindly body, bulbous head, wearing cargo pants and flip-flops, explains that there are men in black after him. Graeme agrees to help find his mothership. And for a few miles, everything's fine, until Clive wakes up, assumes they're being kidnapped and gets Paul in a stranglehold.

(Soundbite of film, "Paul")

Mr. NICK FROST (Actor): (As Clive Gollings) (Unintelligible).

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) Was that Klingon? You psychotic nerd.

Mr. FROST: (As Clive) He looks too obvious.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) There's a reason for that, Clive. Over the last 60 years, the human race has been drip-fed images of my face on lunchboxes and T-shirts, in case our species do meet, you don't have a spaz attack.

Mr. FROST: (As Clive) I did not have a spaz attack.

MONDELLO: You may be sensing that this movie has a certain fanboy mentality. These guys can't stop at a convenience store without conjuring up a sci-fi reference.

(Soundbite of film, "Paul")

Mr. ROGEN: (As Paul) Hey, Reese's pieces.

MONDELLO: The idea is that this cargo-pants'd stoner-E.T. with the voice of Seth Rogen has been stranded on Earth long enough to have influenced all our extra-terrestrial fantasies. So no one should be surprised when Sigourney Weaver pops by looking for an alien to blast or Stephen Spielberg phones home to Paul for screenwriting pointers.

Subtle the picture is not, but it's pretty funny when "Superbad"'s director Greg Mottola is keeping things brisk. When he lets the pace slacken, say for a sub-plot about a creationist whose world-view is undone by Paul's existence, or to remind us that these British nerds are more alien in America's heartland than the alien-alien they're driving around, the laughs tend to slacken, too.

Still, if it doesn't exactly go where no comedy has gone before, "Paul" is breezy and undemanding, profane enough to be not quite right for younger kids and sweet enough that if they sneak in, as they will certainly want to do, you don't have to worry about them too much.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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