It has never been cool to be a nerd, but if the nerd community has proven anything in recent years, it is that they are a force to be reckoned with. They will band together when necessary to attend giant conventions where they can spend hundreds of dollars on autographs or they will rally thousands of signatures to ensure that their favorite television programs, no matter how obscure, stay on the air. And as their collective power has increased, the more they find themselves represented in the mainstream media, naturally allowing the masses to love them for their endearing social ineptitude. This newfound love of all things geeky is what makes movies like Greg Mottola’s new alien film, “Paul”, possible and, boy oh boy, does it ever geek it up hardcore.
“Paul” opens on a lone farm house in a large, empty field. Windmills start to turn frantically as a rocking chair rocks back and forth on a porch front. Before long, flashing lights fill the sky and a dog barks at the moon. This is quintessential aliens from outer space cinema and the kitch-tastic intro tells us right away that we will be both delighting in, and sending up, all that we have come to know about alien invader movies. As an added bonus though, stars and writers, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (the former previously penned the hilarious “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”), provide us with a rather touching look at the loneliness and insecurity that might accompany men who have never known anything other than their obsessions and each other. This is certainly no small feat considering their co-star is a little green guy voiced by Seth Rogen. The threesome embark on a road trip through a horribly unforgiving middle-America, in an attempt to get the little guy home – he had phoned in earlier – and run into a number of peculiar characters, from an actual man in black (Jason Bateman) to a religious zealot (Kristin Wiig). Ideas about God, the universe and space genitalia are exchanged en route.
Fortunately, geeky humour works for all – the geeks who get the inside jokes and everybody else who can just laugh at how incredibly geeky everything is. “Paul” may be occasionally predictable or transparent but Mottola is sure to infuse this buddy movie with as much heart and sincerity as is possible, given the subject matter. His work may seem extreme at times (“Superbad” anyone?) but it is also always relatable and genuine. While he has his audience distracted with the enjoyment they derive from immersing themselves in nerd culture, whether that inspires superiority in one viewer or solace for another, he manages to sneak something in that no one would see coming and that is humanity. Who knew that meeting an alien from another planet could make you feel more like you belong on this one?
Review by Joseph Bélanger