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Paul (Blu-ray Review)

4 Aug, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 8/9/11
Box Office $37.4 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
‘R’ for language including sexual references and some drug use.
Stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jane Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor, Blythe Danner. Voice of Seth Rogen.

Paul is a film made by sci-fi geeks for sci-fi geeks. The film tells the story of Graeme and Clive (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who also wrote the screenplay), two old-school fanboys on holiday from their native Britain for a trip to the San Diego Comic-Con and then an RV tour of famous UFO hotspots across America.

Somewhere in the desert their journey veers into the real-life sci-fi adventure of their dreams. They come across a car crash and meet Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), a wisecracking alien who escaped from Area 51 and is trying to meet up with a mother ship that will take him home. Naturally, a few government agents are hot on his trail, so Paul and his new buddies have to keep a low profile, which of course they are completely incapable of doing.

Paul comes across like Roger from “American Dad” (although, in their commentary, none of the filmmakers claim to have seen the show). His alien skills include invisibility and healing, but he also demonstrates an ability to revive the dead, which is a good indicator that one of the main characters will die so he can end up using this power.

Between the comic book confabs and the pop culture references, Paul feels like it could have been a Kevin Smith movie. There’s even a scene where the two hetero lifemates dress up the alien and have him pose as their kid, like something out of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It’s not, though. The film was directed by Greg Mottola, who previously hit it big with Superbad.

However, Paul is more Pegg and Frost’s baby, continuing their string of cult-favorite comedies. With Shaun of the Dead, they lampooned the zombie movie. Hot Fuzz poked fun at police actioners. And Paul sends up the Spielberg-style alien adventure. (Ol’ Steven even gets in a voice cameo in a flashback scene.) Throw “Spaced” into the mix, and you can see the comedic duo have an affinity for the source material. Heck, they got Sigourney Weaver to poke fun at her legendary sci-fi action heroine status, so you know they mean business.

The disc boasts an unrated cut that runs about six minutes longer than the theatrical version. The extras are extensive, with a 40-minute behind-the-scenes doc and an additional hour of featurettes that leave no stone unturned about exactly how this film was made. It’s almost too much information. We see everything from Pegg and Frost documenting an actual road trip that informed their writing, to the step-by-step process of creating a CG alien using stand-ins and a motion-capture rig on Rogen’s face. In case these featurettes missed anything, a commentary with Pegg, Frost, Mottola, actor Bill Hader and producer Nira Park fills in the blanks.

The lighter side of things includes a blooper reel, a featurette about Pegg’s ability to make funny faces, and “Who the Hell is Adam Shadowchild?” about a sci-fi author played by Jeffrey Tambor. And there’s a bit called “Paul the Musical,” in which the actors improv songs on set. Good stuff.

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