Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Greg Mottola|
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Edited by||Chris Dickens|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$100 million|
Paul is a 2011 science fiction road comedy film directed by Greg Mottola from a screenplay by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Starring Pegg, Frost and the voice and motion capture of Seth Rogen, the film plot focuses on two science fiction geeks who meet an alien with a sarcastic manner and an appetite for alcohol and cigarettes. Together, they help the alien escape from the FBI agents who are pursuing him so that he can return to his home world. The film is a parody of other science-fiction films, especially those of Steven Spielberg, as well as to general science fiction fandom.
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 moderate positive reactions from critics, and grossed $98 million worldwide on a $40 million budget.
Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are British comic book enthusiasts and best friends who travel to the United States to attend the annual San Diego Comic-Con, and to take a road trip through the Southwestern United States to visit sites significant to UFO lore. While driving on a remote desert highway at night, after a tense situation with some rednecks in a diner, Graeme and Clive observe a car driving erratically and then crashing. They stop to investigate and offer assistance to the driver, who turns out to be an alien named Paul, whom Graeme agrees to give a ride despite Clive fainting and wetting his own pants from seeing him. Later, Special Agent Zoil of the FBI arrives at the car-crash site and informs his unseen female superior, "the Big Guy", that he is closing in on Paul. She sends two inept rookies, Haggard and O'Reilly, to assist Zoil.
Clive remains paranoid over Paul's intentions, considering his appearance evidence of a conspiracy theory, until Paul tells them that the government spoon fed his image to the public to keep them from panicking if anyone encounters his race. They later camp at an RV park run by two Christian fundamentalists, one-eyed Ruth Buggs and her father Moses. The next day, when Ruth discovers Paul, she faints, and the three have no choice but to take her with them. During an argument, Paul convinces Ruth to question her beliefs and uses his healing power to cure Ruth's blinded eye. The fugitives stop at a bar and Ruth tries to call her father, but Zoil intercepts the call. She is then accosted by the rednecks from the diner and a bar fight ensues. The group escapes when Paul terrifies the rednecks into fainting. Later, at another RV park, Ruth is questioned by Agent Zoil, but feigns ignorance and escapes. Haggard and O'Reilly in the meantime have figured out about Paul. When they confront Zoil, he orders them to return to base but they go behind his back and insist on catching the alien on their own.
The group soon arrives at the house of a woman named Tara, who rescued Paul when he crashed on Earth 60 years ago and accidentally killed her dog (after whom Paul was named) in the crash (seen at the beginning of the movie). As a result of no one believing her story, she has spent her life as a pariah. Although angry at first, she forgives Paul and goes to make coffee for her visitors. Just then, Haggard, O'Reilly and Zoil surround the house. The fugitives flee, but O'Reilly shoots at them, igniting gas from Tara's stove and destroying her house with O'Reilly inside it. Haggard pursues and catches up to the RV but loses control and drives off a cliff to his death. Zoil reassures the Big Guy that he will have Paul within the hour, but she is tired of waiting and informs Zoil that she has ordered a "military response".
Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara arrive at Devils Tower National Monument, where they set off fireworks as a signal to Paul's mothership. A helicopter suddenly arrives with agents and the Big Guy. Zoil then appears and initiates a stand-off, unexpectedly shooting the Big Guy's agents, before being wounded by the Big Guy. It is revealed that Zoil is Paul's friend and was 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 then the Big Guy regains consciousness and holds the group at gunpoint. Just as the Big Guy is about to kill them, she is crushed by the landing mothership. 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 humans wave them goodbye.
Two years later, Graeme, Clive and Ruth are at another Comic-Con, where Graeme and Clive are promoting their new bestselling novel titled Paul.
- Simon Pegg as Graeme Willy
- Nick Frost as Clive Gollings
- Seth Rogen as Paul (voice and motion capture)
- Jason Bateman as Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil. Bateman described his character as an "exaggerated nasty guy". Bateman also stated that he based Zoil on Yaphet Kotto in Midnight Run and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. His name is a play-on of the film, Lorenzo's Oil (1992).
- Kristen Wiig as Ruth Buggs
- Bill Hader as Agent Haggard
- Blythe Danner as Tara Walton
- Joe Lo Truglio as Agent O'Reilly
- John Carroll Lynch as Moses Buggs, Ruth's father
- Jane Lynch as Pat Stevens
- David Koechner as Gus, a hillbilly whom Graeme and Clive first encounter in a Nevada gas station.
- Jesse Plemons as Jake, Gus's friend.
- Sigourney Weaver as "The Big Guy". In an interview with Graham Norton, Weaver stated: "It's a love letter to sci-fi fans. I jumped at the chance to be in it. To find a comedy that also pays homage to sci-fi is a dream come true."
- Syd Masters as himself, singing cowboy on stage
- Jeffrey Tambor as Adam Shadowchild, a famous science fiction writer
- Steven Spielberg as Himself (voice)
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. 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. 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.
The idea for Paul came from Pegg and Frost in 2003, while they were filming Shaun of the Dead. 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. According to Mottola, the film was given the green light shortly before the late 2000s recession; if it had been delayed, "they probably wouldn’t have made the movie." The budget for the film was around $40 million. Principal photography, including 50 days in the New Mexico desert, wrapped on 9 September 2009, with additional scenes filmed in July 2010 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, which was designed to look like the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. During filming, Joe Lo Truglio was a stand-in for the character Paul, the only character who was created by CGI. Seth Rogen did some motion capture in preproduction and voice work during postproduction. The cover art for the fictional comic book Encounter Briefs was drawn by alternative comics artist Daniel Clowes.
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. 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.
Paul received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 70% approval rating based on 203 reviews with an average rating of 6.31/10. The site'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". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57/100 (indicating "mixed or average reviews") based on 37 critics.
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." 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." 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". On the same scale Nigel Andrews gave the film only one star, calling it a "faltering extraterrestrial knockabout". 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."
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." 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." 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."
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." According to Manohla Dargis, "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."
|2011||National Movie Award||Best Comedy||Won|
|2012||Annie Award||Character Animation in a Live Action Production||Michael Hull
|2012||Visual Effects Society Award||Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture||Anders Beer, Julian Foddy, Jody Johnson, David Lowry||Nominated|
All tracks are written by David Arnold, except as noted.
|1.||"Paul Opening Title"||David Arnold||1:56|
|2.||"Another Girl, Another Planet" (from The Only Ones, 1978)||Peter Perrett||The Only Ones||3:00|
|3.||"Road Trip Number 1"||David Arnold||0:57|
|4.||"Just the Two of Us"||Withers, Ralph MacDonald, William Salter||Bill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr.||3:57|
|6.||"Road Trip Number 2"||David Arnold||1:34|
|7.||"Flying Saucers Rock 'N' Roll" (single, 1957)||Harold Ray Scott||Billy Lee Riley||2:02|
|8.||"Window Shopping"||David Arnold||0:51|
|9.||"Hello It's Me" (from Something/Anything?, 1972)||Rundgren||Todd Rundgren||4:20|
|10.||"End of the Road Trip"||David Arnold||1:38|
|11.||"Dancing in the Moonlight" (from Dancing In The Moonlight, 1973)||Sherman Kelly||King Harvest||2:56|
|12.||"Campfire Confession"||David Arnold||1:24|
|13.||"Got to Give It Up" (from Live at the London Palladium, 1977)||Gaye||Marvin Gaye||6:01|
|14.||"A Little Talk with Paul"||David Arnold||1:21|
|15.||"I Chase the Devil" (from War Ina Babylon, 1976)||Lee Perry, Romeo||Max Romeo||3:22|
|17.||"Cantina Band"||John Williams||Syd Masters & The Swing Riders||3:42|
|18.||"You Gotta Try"||David Arnold||2:51|
|19.||"1st Contact"||David Arnold||1:17|
|20.||"Planet Claire" (from The B-52's, 1979)||Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland||The B-52's||4:33|
|21.||"Goodbye (It's a Little Awkward)"||David Arnold||4:42|
|22.||"All Over the World" (from Xanadu, 1980)||Jeff Lynne||Electric Light Orchestra||4:05|
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