R, 3.5 stars
Have you seen Seth Rogen on a talk show? He has this nervous laugh that's terribly uncool and more than a little grating, and his stories aren't as funny as they should be, but he's so darn likable that you gloss over the tepid jokes and those painful, "Heh, heh hehs." Rogen provides the voice for Paul, the computer-animated alien that is the central figure in Paul, a foul-mouthed slacker comedy (does anyone still say "slacker?) about a pair of sci-fi geeks (I don't really think sci-fi fans are geeks, but I also don't think genre buffs will mind the term all that much) and their adventures with a stoner alien.
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost wrote and star in Paul. The pair starred in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both of which Pegg co-wrote with Edgar Wright. Paul isn't anywhere near as good as Shaun or Fuzz, but it's so darn likable that you gloss over the tepid jokes and the sloppy pacing and the obviousness of it all and just grin.
It may sound like I'm damning the film with faint praise, but let me tell you, assembling a comedy where the lead characters are genuinely pleasant doesn't happen all that often. Yes, I'm picking at Paul, but I enjoyed myself. Incidentally, you know those "darns" I used a couple of times earlier? They started off being "damns," but I changed them because I used the phrase "damning with faint praise" and thought three damns would be excessive.
The filmmakers did not share my feelings. Paul is stuffed to the gills with cussing, from the standard "fucks" and variations thereof to some of the more colorfully odd combinations of swear words you're likely to hear outside of a marathon of stand-up comedians doing stereotypical impressions of someone with Tourette Syndrome. At the advance screening I attended, a number of parents brought their children. Perhaps they saw the computer-animated alien and assumed Paul was a kiddie movie, despite the prominent "R" rating. Perhaps they were just stupid – excuse me, I mean motherfucking tit-balls stupid. Regardless, their young 'uns got a crash course in naughty talk over the film's 104 minutes.
Wanna talk plot? Two sci-fi fans from the UK meet stoner alien Paul, who's being chased by government types (including Jason Bateman). They hide him in their RV and take off down Road Trip Comedy Highway 1. Along the way, they meet a variety of peculiar folks, most notably an ultra-conservative Christian (Kristen Wiig), whose religious beliefs are shattered by the presence of the petite pot-bellied alien. She has a mixture of a breakdown and a breakthrough and joins the boys on their adventures.
Pegg and Frost's screenplay takes cheap shots at Christians, while over-relying on dope jokes and body part gags. The sci-fi and movie references range from obvious to delightful (absolutely loved the music in the roadhouse) to Dennis Miller-level obscure (there's a nod to Capturing the Friedmans. Really!), but enough about all that. I liked Pegg and Frost as the sci-fi fanboys and best friends. I liked Wiig as the nutty hick. I liked Seth Rogen as Paul. Spending an hour and forty lazy minutes with them was agreeable enough that I'll probably do it again when the film comes out on video. And to be fair, some of the jokes are pretty darn pussy-ass dog-dick good. Heh, heh, heh.