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For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town -- a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings. Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship.
For more about Paul and the Paul Blu-ray release, see Paul Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Greg Mottola
» See full cast & crew
Paul Blu-ray Review
Close Encounters of the Fanboy Kind
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 20, 2011
If you're gearing up for the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, go ahead and add Paul to your Blu-ray Wish List. Like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, dynamic duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's previous pairings, director Greg Mottola's geek-tastic road trip not only tackles an entire genre, it hones in on an entire subculture of filmfans and fanboys; in this case a subculture that eats, breathes and wheezes comicbooks, Star Wars and every other convention-worthy sci-fi phenom. Unlike Shaun and Fuzz, though, Paul isn't nearly as sharp or exacting a film. Mottola is no Edgar Wright (who directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and Pegg simply isn't the co-writer he is when Wright is in the captain's chair. Whereas Wright's near-flawless genre parodies dissect their respective patients with hilarious, side-slicing precision, Mottola's jagged jaunt across the desert is more ambivalent and uncertain. In fact, his Brits-out-of-water alien autopsy shares a lot in common with his last two films, Superbad and Adventureland, particularly when it comes to his love of the geeky mundane. And while laughs await at every turn, it's hard to escape the feeling that they're never quite as full or hearty as they could be. Don't misunderstand. Paul is a fairly funny film, and a competently made genre comedy. It just lacks the focus, fusion and palpable spark that might have put it in the same league as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
After attending Comic-Con, best friends Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) set out across the Nevada desert in a ramshackled RV, stopping at a number of infamous alien-encounter sites along the way. It isn't long, though, before they have a close encounter of their own when an alien-on-the-lam named Paul (Seth Rogen, The Green Hornet) hitches a ride with the hopelessly hapless Brits. But Paul isn't your average extraterrestrial. He's been on Earth for decades, helping the American government from the confines of a secret facility, all the while developing an affinity for cursing, smoking weed and spewing pop culture references. Hot on his trail is a stone-cold government spook named Lorenzo Zoil (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses), the "Big Guy" he answers to (Sigourney Weaver, Avatar) and a bumbling pair of FBI agents (SNL's Bill Hader and State alum Joe Lo Truglio). On the run, Graeme, Clive and Paul soon pick up another passenger: Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids), a naive religious fanatic whose faith is shattered when Paul shakes everything she's ever believed in. With Ruth in tow and her shotgun-toting father (John Carroll Lynch, Shutter Island) in pursuit, Graeme and Clive race to help Paul phone home.
Mottola doesn't favor lazy comedy, but his penchant for casual comedy is Paul's thermal exhaust port. The plot is big, the action is big, the explosions are certainly big, but the comedy is comprised of surprisingly small-scale stuff. Like Superbad, Paul expects us to double over laughing at the sight of something as simple as a nostalgic Empire Strikes Back T-shirt; as if appealing to fanboy good will is enough. Pot-smoking is tossed in for the sake of... what, I can't imagine. Rogen's built-in fanbase? Lowest common denominator humor? The same old watch-the-new-smoker-get-insanely-high gag? The F-bomb is belted out with junior-high abandon, but there's no poetry in the film's profanity. Wiig cusses up a storm, presumably because someone thought a former religious zealot spouting random four-letter words would never grow old, even after the seventy-second time it happens. (I constantly have to remind my young son, "it's only funny once." I wish I could teach Mottola the same lesson.) And while the constant barrage of Comic-Con-primed references are lovingly deployed, they aren't really all that unexpected. Star Wars and Star Trek nods? Ewok hilarity? Replica swords? E.T. jabs? Pretentious sci-fi authors? X-Files one-liners? Anal probes? Is this the best subculture gold Comic-Con can provide? I've been there. I know the strangeness and eager energy that lurks within its halls. Paul barely scratches the surface. It's almost akin to "Comic Culture for Dummies," and I suspect non-geeks will find it to be more amusing than card-carrying citizens of geekdom; those poor misunderstood souls left lamenting what could have been.
Yet, despite my misgivings, I still had a grin permanently etched on my face, and it grew wider as Paul barreled along. Pegg and Frost are an irresistible duo, even without Wright in the director's chair, and their now-patented chemistry keeps the film from crashing and burning, even when it stutters to a near-halt midway into its second act. Rogen holds his own in the recording booth as well. Yes, his fully CG incarnation is more instrumental in Paul's appeal as a leading alien than Rogen's gravelly voicework, but the little gray guy grows on you; more so in repeat viewings. And Bateman and Hader are incredibly funny in their own right, each one indulging in his own long-established schtick with at-times irreverent indifference. Wiig and Blythe Danner are largely wasted, by no fault of their own, as are Jeffrey Tambor, Jane Lynch and other cameo-addicts that appear. But, if nothing else, Paul has a distinct momentum made all the more furious and fiery by its hey-isn't-that-so-and-so character actors. There are also enough gut-busters sprinkled throughout to keep Mottola's comedy from being a quiet, tiresome affair, and the first and last half-hours of the film are particularly entertaining, sandwiching an otherwise unremarkable gooey center between a strong opening and a priceless endgame. I'm sure some will lap up everything Paul dishes out, and I'm sure others will grow to hate it more and more with every missed opportunity. Me? I had a good time, I suppose. I was just left wanting.
Paul Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paul looks fantastic. There's no two ways around it. While Lawrence Sher's yellowed comicbook-pages palette flattens the image quite a bit, at least on occasion, Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer couldn't be a much more perfect representation of Mottola and Sher's intentions. Color accuracy and saturation are satisfying, skintones, human and alien alike, are convincing, and black levels are nice and inky. Contrast is a bit dull at times, inherently so, but the whole of the image still has a wonderful pop, especially when the sun is high or the lights are up. Delineation is spot on as well, and shadows and nightfall drape naturally over the already warmly lit actors. Detail is the real standout, though. Fine textures are impeccably resolved, edge definition is crisp, discriminating and stable (without the unwanted help of any burdensome edge enhancement) and every tattered T-shirt print, scruffy patch of Ewok fur, spindly alien vein, dust-blasted fanboy and Comic-Con action figure, replica sword and comicbook are showcased in all their geeky glory. There also isn't any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing, crush or smearing to speak of, much less to be distracted by. Some noise invades a few bright skies, sure, but it's hardly an issue. Ultimately, while Paul may not be the most gorgeous comedy to land on Blu-ray, its encode is about as good as it gets.
Paul Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track stays on target and rarely disappoints. Paul sometimes flies into chatty, front-heavy comedy territory, but it's never long before an angry shotgun, a throaty engine, an exploding farmhouse, a chaotic car chase or a action-packed close encounter brings it back on point. LFE output is weighty and effective, with big, bold booms and thooms waiting around every corner. The rear speakers are engaging and aggressive, making the most of almost any environment Mottola showcases (all but Comic-Con, that is, which remains strangely restrained). Precise directional effects whiz across the soundfield with pitch-perfect ease, pans are as transparent as Paul's camouflage, and dynamics are remarkable. And dialogue always remains above the fray. Voices are clear and intelligible, prioritization doesn't falter, and every line is realistically grounded in the soundscape. All in all, Paul's lossless track is a rousing success that makes it easier to let go and let Mottola.
Paul Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Paul beams down a variety of extras, among them an unrated extended cut of the film, an audio commentary, a 40-minute documentary and more than an hour of featurettes. No, there aren't any PiP tracks or deleted scenes to be had, so there are a few missed opportunities. But there are plenty of quality special features to go around, all of which are presented in high definition.
Paul Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Every comedy has a target audience and Paul's is clearly the Comic-Con crowd. But even as a member of that crowd, I didn't find it to be the ultimate fanboy farce it purports to be. It tries too hard, for one, and rarely goes for broke, putting a geeky spin on conventional gags and settling for all-too-familiar cult-culture references. Still, there are plenty of laughs to be had, ample alien antics to enjoy, and enough Pegg, Frost, Bateman, Hader and Wiig to go around. Whether you love or loathe Paul, or lament the squandered potential, though, Universal's Blu-ray release will not disappoint. It boasts a near-perfect video transfer, an Earth-moving DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a fairly impressive supplemental package. At the very least, Paul is worth a rent. For many, it may even be worth a blind buy. So fire up some popcorn, toss on your favorite Star Wars shirt, and see if it works for you.
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Paul Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: August 9-15 - August 9, 2011
First off, Paul is not the highly anticipated sci-fi film that completes the "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy". While Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star in the geeky comedy, it is actually helmed by Adventureland director Greg Mottola. The film, which follows the escapades ...
• Paul Blu-ray - June 7, 2011
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Paul, the 2011 science fiction comedy directed by Greg Mottola. The film follows two comic book geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and their encounter with a foul-mouthed alien (voiced by ...
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