Paul (film)

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Two men and a short thin grey alien, all lit up by a spotlight
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byGreg Mottola
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyLawrence Sher
Edited byChris Dickens
Music byDavid Arnold
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
Running time
104 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$40 million[1][2]
Box office$98 million[3]

Paul is a 2011 comic science fiction road film[4] directed by Greg Mottola from a screenplay by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Starring Pegg and Frost, with the voice and motion capture of Seth Rogen as the titular character, the film follows two science fiction geeks who come across an alien. Together, they help the alien escape from the Secret Service agents who are pursuing him so that he can return to his home planet. The film is a parody of other science-fiction films, especially those of Steven Spielberg, as well as of science fiction fandom in general.

It is a British-American venture produced by Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Big Talk Pictures and Relativity Media and distributed by Universal Pictures. Paul was released on 14 February 2011 in the United Kingdom and on 18 March 2011 in the United States to generally positive reviews from critics and grossed $98 million worldwide on a $40 million budget.


Best friends Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are British comic book and sci-fi enthusiasts who travel to the United States to attend the annual San Diego Comic-Con. Clive is trying to write his own sci-fi book, and Graeme is illustrating Clive's book. In addition to going to the convention, they embark on a road trip through the Southwestern U.S. to visit UFO sites on a remote desert highway at night.

After a brush with homophobic rednecks at a diner, they watch a car driving erratically and crashing. Stopping to offer assistance to the driver, he is revealed to be Paul, an alien. Graeme agrees to give him a ride, despite Clive fainting and wetting his pants upon seeing him.

Later, Special Agent Zoil of the Secret Service arrives at the car-crash site, informing his unseen female superior, known as "the Big Guy," that he is closing in on Paul. She sends rookies Haggard and O'Reilly to assist. Clive remains paranoid over Paul's intentions, considering his appearance as evidence of a conspiracy. Then Paul explains the government fed his image to the public to keep them from panicking if anyone encounters his race.

Graeme, Clive, and Paul later camp at an RV park run by Christian fundamentalists, one-eyed Ruth Buggs and her father Moses. The next day, when Ruth sees Paul, she faints, so they take her with them. During an argument, Paul convinces Ruth to question her beliefs and uses his healing power to cure her blind eye.

Stopping at a bar, Ruth calls her father, but Zoil intercepts the call. She is accosted by the rednecks and a bar fight ensues. They escape when Paul terrifies them into fainting. Later, at another RV park, Ruth is questioned by Agent Zoil, but plays dumb and escapes. Meanwhile, Haggard and O'Reilly have figured out about Paul. Confronting Zoil, he orders them to return to base, but they go behind his back and try to catch the alien on their own.

The group soon arrives at Tara's, who rescued Paul when he crashed on Earth 60 years ago, accidentally killing her dog (hence Paul's name) in the crash (opening scene). As no-one believed her story, she has spent her life as a pariah. Although angry at first, she forgives Paul and prepares to make tea for her visitors. Haggard, O'Reilly and Zoil arrive and surround the house. The group flee but O'Reilly shoots at them, igniting gas from Tara's stove and destroying her house with him inside. Haggard pursues and catches up to the RV but loses control and drives off a cliff. Zoil reassures the Big Guy that he will have Paul within the hour but tired of waiting, she orders a "military response".

Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara arrive at Devils Tower National Monument, where they set off fireworks to signal Paul's mothership. A helicopter suddenly arrives with agents and the Big Guy. Zoil appears and initiates a stand-off, unexpectedly shooting the agents, before being wounded. He is revealed to be Paul's friend, attempting to aid his escape under the guise of capturing him. During the fight, Tara knocks out the Big Guy. Moses arrives unexpectedly and fires at Paul, but hits Graeme instead. Paul once again uses his healing powers, reviving Graeme in spite of the danger to himself, causing Moses to believe Paul to be a messiah.

Graeme and Ruth admit their feelings for each other and kiss, but the Big Guy regains consciousness and holds the group at gunpoint. Just as she is about to kill them, she is crushed by the landing transport ship. Paul says goodbye to his friends and offers Tara a chance to go with him, promising to give her a new life after ruining her childhood and accidentally killing her dog. The aliens go home as the remaining humans wave. Two years later, Graeme, Clive and Ruth are at another Comic-Con, where Graeme and Clive are promoting their new bestselling novel titled Paul.


Prominent comedic actor Seth Rogen provided the voice work and motion capture for Paul the alien (pictured in 2013).

In an interview for the DVD release of Paul, Pegg and Frost said they made the film to demonstrate their love for Steven Spielberg's films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, as well as their favourite science-fiction films.[8] After they mentioned the project to Spielberg, he suggested he might make a cameo appearance, and a scene was added to include him as a voice on a speakerphone in 1980 discussing ideas with Paul for his soon-to-become box office hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[9][10] According to Robert Kirkman, he, along with Invincible co-creator Cory Walker and Invincible artist Ryan Ottley, had a cameo in the film as the Big Guy's henchmen.[11]


The idea for Paul came from Pegg and Frost in 2003, while they were filming Shaun of the Dead.[1] To help with the script, Pegg and Frost went on their own road trip across America and used ideas from it to add to the script.[12] According to Mottola, the film was given the green light shortly before the onset of the Great Recession; if it had been delayed, "they probably wouldn't have made the movie."[1] The budget for the film was around US$40 million.[1] Principal photography, including 50 days in the New Mexico desert,[1] wrapped on 9 September 2009,[13] with additional scenes filmed in July 2010 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, which was designed to look like the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.[14] During filming, Joe Lo Truglio was a stand-in for the character Paul, the only character who was created by CGI, although Seth Rogen, the voice of Paul did some motion capture in preproduction during postproduction.[15] The cover art for the fictional comic book Encounter Briefs was drawn by alternative comics artist Daniel Clowes.[16]


A teaser trailer for the film was released on 18 October 2010.[17] The film had its world premiere in London on 7 February 2011.[18]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on 13 June 2011 and was released in North America on 9 August 2011. Three versions of the film were made.[19] The DVD release features an audio commentary with director Greg Mottola, stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Hader, and producer Nira Park; two featurettes; "Simon's Silly Faces"; photo galleries; storyboards and posters; and a blooper reel. The United States Blu-ray release features all the DVD supplements with nine more featurettes and a digital copy.[20]


Box office[edit]

Paul grossed $37.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $63.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $98 million.[3]

In North America, Paul opened on March 18, 2011 alongside Limitless and The Lincoln Lawyer. It went on to debut to $13 million, finishing fifth at the box office.[21][22]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 70% based on 207 reviews, with an average rating of 6.30/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "It doesn't measure up to Pegg and Frost's best work, but Paul is an amiably entertaining — albeit uneven — road trip comedy with an intergalactic twist."[23] On Metacritic, the film received a score of 57 based on 37 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[22][25]

Empire rated the film "excellent" (four stars out of five), stating, "Broader and more accessible than either Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, Paul is pure Pegg and Frost — clever, cheeky, and very, very funny. You'll never look at E.T. in the same way again."[26] SFX also gives the film four stars out of five, saying, "the film veers dangerously close to alienating (no pun intended) all but its geek core audience, [though] the more obvious concessions to a mainstream crowd [are] never enough to derail the film's laugh-a-minute ride"; SFX also calls it a "triumph of visual effects, convincing characterisation and bad taste humour."[27] Peter Bradshaw gave the film two stars out of five and called it a "goofy, amiable piece of silliness" exhibiting "self-indulgence" and possessing a "distinct shortage of real gags".[28] On the same scale Nigel Andrews gave the film only one star, calling it a "faltering extraterrestrial knockabout".[18] The Independent grades the film two stars out of five, saying, "Pegg is likeable as usual, Frost more doltish than usual, and Kristen Wiig an appealing convert from Bible thumper to ladette", and notes that "from time to time, clever ideas rear their heads – like the idea that 'Paul' has been the brains behind all science-fiction and UFO initiatives for the last 30 years, including Close Encounters and The X-Files – but they soon return to the film's default setting of laddish japes and a conviction that the word 'cocksucker' will always get a laugh."[29]

IGN provided Paul with three reviews. The first gave the film three stars, stating, "Simon Pegg and Nick Frost send up everything from Star Wars to E.T. in this sci-fi comedy ... As with Pegg and Frost's previous films together, it's derivative stuff, the plot similar to countless sci-fi flicks of the past; paying homage to the good and gently ribbing the bad."[30] Less excited was their review for the British Blu-ray version, which said, "But unlike previous Pegg and Frost collaborations – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – Paul does not generously reward repeat viewing. That's not to say it's a bad film at all; it has a strong central premise, which carries much of the film, loveable central characters, the odd neat idea (it turns out that Paul inspired all major works of SF post-1950, from Close Encounters to The X-Files, and has a direct line to Steven Spielberg), and a couple of genuine laughs, but it never feels more than a rough sketch of a bigger, much funnier movie."[31] In a second review for the American Blu-ray version, IGN compared the movie with Galaxy Quest and wrote that it is "richly layered with clever homage, a refreshingly original alien hero, delightfully entertaining characters and great performances from our leads and their supporting players."[19]

Upon its release in the United States, Roger Ebert gave Paul a mixed review of two and a half stars out of four, saying it is a "movie that teeters on the edge of being really pretty good and loses its way. I'm not sure quite what goes wrong, but you can see that it might have gone right."[32] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote: "As genial, foolish and demographically engineered as it sounds (hailing all fan boys and girls), Paul is at once a buddy flick and a classic American road movie of self (and other) discovery, interspersed with buckets of expletives and some startling (especially for a big-studio release) pokes at Christian fundamentalism ... The movie has its attractions, notably Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost (and of course Mr. Bateman), whose ductile, (noncomputer) animated and open faces were made for comedy ... Paul proves the weak link. One problem is that Mr. Rogen, however comically inclined, has become overexposed, and there's just something too familiar and predictable about this voice coming out of that body. Yet while Paul seems great conceptually, he's not particularly interesting or surprising, despite a funny recap of what he's been doing on his time on Earth. With his vibe and vocabulary, shorts and weed, juvenilia and sentimentality, Paul turns out to be not much different from a lot of guys who have wreaked comedy havoc on American screens lately, even if this one only wants to beam up, not knock up."[33]


At the 2011 National Movie Awards, Paul received both nominations for Performance of the Year (Frost and Pegg) and won Best Comedy;[34] this same category was nominated at the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards 2011.[35] The film was nominated in two categories at the 2011 Golden Trailer Awards: "Trailer" (Workshop Creative) for Best Comedy and "Dessert" (The Ant Farm) for Best Comedy TV Spot.[36] Character animators David Lowry and Mike Hull were nominated for Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in a Live Action Production at the 39th Annie Awards.[37] Paul's character design was nominated for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture at the 10th Visual Effects Society Awards.[38][39]


Paul: Music from the Original Motion Picture was released on 21 February 2011 by Universal Music.[40] It intersperses David Arnold's score with the rock songs appearing in the film.

All tracks are written by David Arnold, except as noted

1."Paul Opening Title" David Arnold1:56
2."Another Girl, Another Planet" (from The Only Ones, 1978)Peter PerrettThe Only Ones3:00
3."Road Trip Number 1" David Arnold0:57
4."Just the Two of Us"Withers, Ralph MacDonald, William SalterBill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr.3:57
5."Passport" David Arnold1:18
6."Road Trip Number 2" David Arnold1:34
7."Flying Saucers Rock 'N' Roll" (single, 1957)Harold Ray ScottBilly Lee Riley2:02
8."Window Shopping" David Arnold0:51
9."Hello It's Me" (from Something/Anything?, 1972)RundgrenTodd Rundgren4:20
10."End of the Road Trip" David Arnold1:38
11."Dancing in the Moonlight" (from Dancing In The Moonlight, 1973)Sherman KellyKing Harvest2:56
12."Campfire Confession" David Arnold1:24
13."Got to Give It Up" (from Live at the London Palladium, 1977)GayeMarvin Gaye6:01
14."A Little Talk with Paul" David Arnold1:21
15."I Chase the Devil" (from War Ina Babylon, 1976)Lee Perry, RomeoMax Romeo3:22
16."Chase" David Arnold1:18
17."Cantina Band"John WilliamsSyd Masters & The Swing Riders3:42
18."You Gotta Try" David Arnold2:51
19."1st Contact" David Arnold1:17
20."Planet Claire" (from The B-52's, 1979)Fred Schneider, Keith StricklandThe B-52's4:33
21."Goodbye (It's a Little Awkward)" David Arnold4:42
22."All Over the World" (from Xanadu, 1980)Jeff LynneElectric Light Orchestra4:05


Pegg has stated that he would like to do a sequel to Paul, titled Pauls,[41] but that the time and expense it would take means it is unlikely to happen unless costs decrease.[42] On August 13, 2021 during a live stream on Instagram, Pegg stated that there was 'no chance' of a sequel.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kohn, Eric (11 March 2011). "Right Man to Handle an Irreverent Alien". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  2. ^ Kaufman, Amy (17 March 2011). "Movie Projector: Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper and an alien battle for No. 1". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 March 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Paul (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
  4. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Paul". Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (26 May 2009). "Seth Rogen to voice 'Paul' for Pegg". Variety. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  6. ^ "Paul – Jason Bateman interview". Archived from the original on 23 March 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Sigourney Weaver: Paul role is dream come true". 11 February 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  8. ^ Dittman, Earl (19 August 2011). "Simon Pegg and Nick Frost hilariously help 'Paul' phone home". Digital Journal. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  9. ^ "Paul interview". Event occurs at 5 minutes in. Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
  10. ^ Sweeney, Ken (11 February 2011). "Stars invade for alien film 'Paul' – and reveal love for Spielberg". The Independent.
  11. ^ Kirkman, Robert [@RobertKirkman] (4 November 2010). "Flying out tomorrow to New Mexico." (Tweet). Retrieved 25 July 2010 – via Twitter.
  12. ^ Paul featurette Matt's Movie Reviews Paul trailer. Matt's Movie Reviews. 18 October 2010. Archived from the original on 18 August 2011.
  13. ^ Bangs, Lance (9 September 2009). Principal Photography Wraps!. What Is Paul? – The Paul Production Blogs. Archived from the original on 20 July 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010. Paul – Principal Photography Wrap-up Blog on YouTube
  14. ^ Roush, George 'El Guapo' (15 July 2010). "Paul Set Visit Report. The New Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Comedy!". Archived from the original on 17 July 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
  15. ^ "Paul – Joe Lo Truglio interview". Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  16. ^ "The Cover to Daniel Clowes' Encounter Briefs #23, as Featured in Paul!". Hypergeek. Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  17. ^ "Matt's Movie Reviews Paul trailer". Matt's Movie Reviews. 18 October 2010. Archived from the original on 18 August 2011.
  18. ^ a b Andrews, Nigel (9 February 2011). "Film releases: February 10". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  19. ^ a b Shaffer, R. L. (11 August 2011). "Paul Blu-ray Review". IGN. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  20. ^ "Paul – DVDActive/News". DVDActive. 7 June 2011. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  21. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for March 18-20, 2011 - Box Office Mojo".
  22. ^ a b McClintock, Pamela (18 March 2011). "Friday Box Office: 'Limitless' Pulls Ahead of Crowded Field". The Hollywood Reporter.
  23. ^ "Paul (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  24. ^ "Paul (2011)". Metacritic.
  25. ^ John Young (20 March 2011). "Box office report: 'Limitless' conquers weekend with $19 mil". Entertainment Weekly. garnered a "B+" rating from CinemaScore moviegoers. In particular, those under the age of 18 loved it, giving the film an "A" grade.
  26. ^ Hewitt, Chris. "Paul Review". Empire. Emap. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  27. ^ Farley, Jordan (11 February 2011). "Paul – film review". SFX. Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  28. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (10 February 2011). "Paul – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  29. ^ Walsh, John (11 February 2011). "Paul (15)". The Independent. Archived from the original on 13 February 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  30. ^ Tilly, Chris (17 March 2011). "Paul Review". IGN. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  31. ^ Krupa, Daniel (13 June 2011). "Paul Blu-ray Review". IGN. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  32. ^ Ebert, Roger (16 March 2011). "Phone home? Dude, I'm into texting". Chicago Sun-Times.
  33. ^ Dargis, Manohla (17 March 2011). "Calm Down, People; He Comes in Peace". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 August 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  34. ^ Tobin, Christian (11 May 2011). "National Movie Awards: The winners in full". Digital Spy. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  35. ^ Knegt, Peter (14 December 2011). "The Artist Leads Houston and St. Louis Film Critics Awards". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 19 November 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  36. ^ "The 12th Annual Golden Trailer Award Nominees". Golden Trailer Awards. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  37. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (4 February 2012). "Rango Wins Annie Award for Best Animated Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 23 September 2021. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  38. ^ Kilday, Gregg (9 January 2012). "The Adventures of Tintin Earns Six Nominations From Visual Effects Society". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  39. ^ "Apes, Rango top VES". Variety. 7 February 2012. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015. Retrieved 20 May 2023.
  40. ^ "Paul: Music from the Motion Picture". 4 February 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  41. ^ "Paul The Movie - Pegg and Frost". (Podcast). Archived from the original on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  42. ^ Earnshaw, Helen (15 June 2011). "Simon Pegg Says Paul Sequel Is Unlikely".

External links[edit]