Movie Review: Paul [2011]

Paul [2011]

Paul [2011]
Directors: Greg Mottola
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

Paul is the story of Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), a couple of English sci-fi fanboys who have traveled to the United States in order to complete the ultimate supernatural road trip. They stop at the San Diego Comic Con first, and then hit the blazing trail to see Area 51, Roswell and other alien hot spots. Along the way, they stumble upon an actual alien, Paul, who is on the run from the FBI. Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen, joins them in their RV and has his new-found friends set forth on a new adventure — to get to Wyoming, where he can be sent back to his native planet.

So this is another Pegg/Frost comedy, this time without director Edgar Wright at the helm. A lot of people have complained about his omission, but Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) is more than capable to lead these guys. This is a good-hearted spoof, a movie that isn’t overtly hilarious but still maintains its share of laughs, most of which come from the alien Paul. This is standard Seth Rogen in pint-sized CGI form, complete with the pot smoking and beer drinking. Paul’s a likable fellow, a friendly guy full of wisecracks who is always willing to help out those who are nice to him.

Paul [2011]

Pegg and Frost are on top of their games as sci-fi geeks, and there are countless references to the genre within the movie. I am hardly a sci-fi buff, but I noticed more than a few funny “inside” jokes, my favorite of which was a rural bluegrass band playing the music from the famous Star Wars Cantina scene. Fans of science fiction will feel at home here, and you get the sense that both Pegg and Frost are loving every minute of their roles.

Our two socially awkward heroes are aided by an impressive supporting cast. Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Sigourney Weaver all have memorable roles and provide some fun moments in the movie. Wiig, in particular, is great as the bible-thumping Ruth Buggs, a woman who is first shown on screen wearing a t-shirt of Jesus shooting Charles Darwin in the face. It is also refreshing to see Jason Bateman in a different type of role, this time playing the hard-nosed FBI agent pursuing Paul.

Paul [2011]

Paul succeeds at what it sets out to be — a light, good-natured comedy that pays homage to numerous sci-fi classics. You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate the movie, although it certainly helps. While a step below Pegg/Frost’s past efforts in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul is still an enjoyable movie about a couple of buddies and their new friend, who just so happens to be an alien.

7/10

Cedar Rapids [2011]

Cedar Rapids [2011]

Cedar Rapids [2011]
Directors: Miguel Arteta
Genre: Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

Oh, Ed Helms, you sly devil. When I saw you for the first time on The Office, I didn’t like your character. Andy Bernard was obnoxious and sometimes just plain annoying, and I didn’t want him on the show at all. Yet something happened. I started to laugh at some of his actions, and then he began an epic rivalry with Dwight Schrute. How could I not like the guy after that? Seeing Ed Helms in one of the best roles in The Hangover helped him earn even more respect from me, so much so that I eagerly anticipated Cedar Rapids, a recent comedy in which he obtained his first leading role.

In this movie, Helms stars as Tim Lippe, a small town insurance agent who is sent by his company to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an annual industry convention. His goal is to win the coveted “Two Diamond” award for his company. Leaving his hometown is something new for Tim. He makes sure to carry a travel wallet underneath his shirt — he is in a big city after all — and he is impressed by his hotel and its pool: “There’s palm trees and the whole place smells like chlorine. It’s like I am in Barbados or somewhere.”

As a naive young man, Lippe is easily influenced by others at his convention, particularly the amusing trio of characters played by John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Anne Heche. Reilly plays a party animal, par for the course for him, and dishes out some great lines (and lots of “muff diving” references). I was glad to see Whitlock have a good-sized role here, since I don’t recall seeing him in anything other than The Wire. He even makes a couple of hilarious references to the HBO show, which made me very, very happy. Heche fits right in with the guys as a sultry vixen who holds her own and keeps the men on their toes. All four of the main characters provide some very entertaining moments while maintaining a human aspect to them. They never devolve into caricatures of themselves, which is a huge plus.

The actors that fill out small roles are tremendous as well. Sigourney Weaver plays Lippe’s love interest and former grade-school teacher. Kurtwood Smith (aka “Red” from That 70’s Show) plays the leader of the convention, a man who is comfortable in his own skin, to say the least. Alia Shawkat (aka “Maeby” from Arrested Development) is entertaining as a prostitute who Lippe obtains a strange interest in. Rob Corddry, Mike O’Malley and Thomas Lennon all have brief cameos, too.

While Cedar Rapids doesn’t really break any new ground, it is a fun ride from beginning to end. The plot pretty much goes as you expect it to, but that’s not a bad thing at all when there is such a strong cast to support it. Big props are deserved for Ed Helms, who does a great job in his first leading role. I would like to see him branch out more next time and try a new type of character, but there’s no denying he is good at what he does. Cedar Rapids is one of the best comedies to come out in the last year or so, and it is well worth seeing.

8/10