Best friends Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) from the UK are on the holiday of a lifetime to the San Diego Comic Con, fan boy heaven, followed by a road trip through most of the USA’s famous science-fiction locations. The trip takes them through Area 51, alien central for sightings and alleged government experimentation; it’s here that they witness a car crash and as they venture to check on any survivors, they meet Paul (Voiced by Seth Rogen) the titular alien. Paul explains that he’s on the run from the government who want to experiment on him and he hitches a ride with the duo. They pick-up/kidnap creationist Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) and head off across country to help Paul get home.
The four of them are pursued by single-minded federal agent Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman) and a couple of rookie agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio). The agents are acting on behalf of The Big Guy (Sigourney Weaver) and are to get Paul at any cost. Also on their trail is Ruth’s Christian redneck father Moses (John Carroll Lynch) who wants his daughter back.
This is the third movie to star Pegg and Frost (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), but their first without Edgar Wright directing; he was busy making Scott Pilgrim vs. The World instead. Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland) directs and the movie is much looser and probably more broadly accessible than the duos previous outings.
The script is funny and full of sci-fi movie references and on DVD it’s destined to be a drinking game staple for years to come. The reference/homage check list is impressive: E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek and Aliens among them and they are done with obvious affection and great humour. The first two films mentioned are especially prominent as this is a loving tribute to those films of Spielberg who makes a hilarious voice cameo. There are some prominent digs at religion and a lot of creative swearing which may offend some but I found hilarious.
Pegg and Frost are both good, as expected, but unlike their earlier work they have spread the laughs around much more this time and given the support cast some of the movies funnier moments. Kristen Wiig makes the most of her characters personality switch and is obviously having fun with the various mistimed profanities. For me, Jason Bateman steals the show whenever he’s on screen; he’s so good at the straight faced mean guy we’ve seen him do before but I never get sick of it. Seth Rogen also delivers his funniest performance for some time and maybe he’s more suited to not having to carry a movie. I know it’s just a voice performance but he makes Paul believable and instils him with humour, pathos and personality.
The CGI animation of Paul is really good; the animators have managed to make him seem natural and subtle; they’ve made him appear as a real character rather than showing off, too often the case in other movies.
Good nerdy fun, not as good as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ but then nothing has been since its release, but this is well worth a viewing. They’ve done the ‘geek chic’ thing better on their ‘Spaced’ television show but this is a good way to sign off on that obsession…
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars (I think Edgar Wright would have made it better…)
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars (It’s great fun)