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Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

"Paul" | a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

It seems there's a new slacker/geek/road movie showing every week at my local cineplex. At first blush, you might be fooled into thinking that this week's release is a documentary or even a biopic about the only knighted Beatle on the planet. Nope, that's not the case with "Paul."

Peter, Paul and Mary

Peter, Paul & Mary (Courtesy David Batterson)

Yes, "Paul" is the name of the film... but it's also a diminutive other-world alien who gets encountered, up close and personally, in the vicinity of Area 51 by two comic book geeks from England named Graeme and Clive. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost jolly well accomplish those roles handily, thank you.

Besides being heavy fans of pulp fiction, Graeme and Clive are big time into UFO shit and, having just left San Diego's Comic-Con, are RV-ing (a requisite for all good road movies) east across America. Other than to pause for sodas, dogs, chips, and gas, their itinerary includes venues where memorable events with an extraterrestrial flare have gone down: the secret Nevada mystery base being one ... as well as the notorious Roswell, New Weirdo Mexico.

It's not long after Graeme and Clive have motored into Area 51's desolation that they meet up with Paul. Paul is, likely, the coolest, freakin' alien with whom any earthling will ever make a close encounter of any kind. But the CGI'd Paul (voiced by the one and only Seth Rogen of "Knocked Up" fame) is also a fugitive, a slacker, a joker and a celebrity, of sorts, who's been covertly hanging out on our planet long enough to have absorbed more habits of earthlings than you might think. Paul, we find, is even known, occasionally, among other alleged earthly pleasures, to do a little weed.

(There's even a scene around a camp fire that has Paul toking up with his buds much like we laughingly remember Jack Nicholson doing in "Easy Rider." Now, tell me THAT isn't a funny!)

Rogen, Pegg and Frost are the perpetrators of this pretty damned funny script that arcs nicely, in familiar ways, and entertained the hell out of lots of folks the night I saw it at a downtown screening.

Tulsa's Bill Hader

Tulsa's Bill Hader

Nice touches are also made with supporting players appearing in "Paul." Take "Glee's" Jane Lynch as a diner/roadhouse bartender. Or, Jeffrey Tambor, of "The Larry Sanders Show," cast as an arrogant sci-fi author named (get this), Adam Shadowchild. Then there's an ever solid Jason Bateman being an icy, cold government agent with an inalienably kick-butt boss known as The Big Guy---who turns out to be Sigourney Weaver, and in a gown, too. Bill Hader, Tulsa's own SNL-er, also shows up as Agent Haggard, one of the less deft government cops on-the-hunt for the on-the-lam little extraterrestrial dude.

Toward the close of "Paul," watch for Gwenyth Paltrow's mom, Blythe Danner, to pop up and take a brief turn as the older woman who, as a little girl, saved Paul after he smashed into Earth way back in '47. You'd think this list of pretty slick actors must've fallen all over themselves trying to get into the "Paul" cast... and pro bono at that, maybe.

Extra comedy and a little romance come in the form of Kristen Wiig, also of "Saturday Night Live." She does the role of Ruth Buggs, the apple of Graeme's eye... as well as the abducted but not-so-hip adopted daughter of Moses Buggs, the proprietor of the isolated Pearly Gates RV Camp. John Carroll Lynch is Moses. You can see him in "Fargo," as well as "Shutter Island."

John Carroll Lynch John Carroll Lynch

John Carroll Lynch

Kristen Wiig

"Superbad" director Greg Mottola allows for a so in-the-niche genre motion picture with "Paul," but the writing, dialogue and cast bring more life to this goofy film than the slacker/geek/road movie that opened last week... or, probably, the one scheduled to open next week. So, I would go so far as to predict that "Paul" may be the funniest forgettable film to be released in a while.

What would make "Paul" a better, funnier movie are two more cameo roles: those being David Duchovny as Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully. The X-Filers would make their entrances just as the saucer silently rises from the parched earth and, instantaneously, slices into the dark night for an unknown solar system.

Yo! The Mirth is Out There.

(btw) This is really a classy film. It's not every day you get to listen to Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" on a trailer sound track. Such heaviness is only for Stanley Kubrick films and movies scripted by Rogen, Pegg and Frost. So, count your lucky stars, and watch it again.

"Paul" official site. Opens March 18.

See Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2011, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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