I am very picky about my comedy. I like witty and clever, not crass and crude. The Marx Brothers are always funny. So is most everything from Monty Python. Most modern American style humor I do not find funny at all because most of it tends to be in the vein of “how many fart/sex jokes can we fit into this 5 minute segment?”
One comedy duo that I have grown to love is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. They, along with writer/director Edgar Wright, managed to make a cop procedural and a zombie movie (2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, respectively) that I thought were enjoyable and extremely funny. So I was pretty excited when I heard about Paul coming out. True, it didn’t have Edgar Wright directing, but it still had Pegg and Frost. I had high hopes.
For the most part, Paul did not disappoint. Clive (Nick Frost) and Graeme (Simon Pegg) are two longtime nerds and best friends (from England). They are finally living a dream when they get to attend Comic-Con and then take a road trip in a rented RV to various alien sighting locations in the Southwest. Things take an unexpected turn when they run into Paul, a little green man desperate to get home. The movie is filled with all kinds of jokes that will please even the most casual of pop culture/sci-fi nerds. But there were two things that bothered me about the movie.
First, Paul the alien is played by Seth Rogen. Disclaimer: I have only seen two of his films- Paul and Knocked Up. In both movies Seth Rogen played the same character. From movie trailers I have seen, Seth Rogen played the same characters in those movies as well (except perhaps for 50/50): a pothead slacker. While it is mildly funny that the first alien contact we have turns out to be with an alien as laid back and party-loving as Paul, the character tends to get tiring. Especially considering how distinctive Seth Rogen’s voice is. There is no forgetting exactly who Paul is.
The other thing that really bothered me was the character of Ruth. Ruth, played by Kristen Wiig, is the love interest in the movie that the boys end up kidnapping after she discovers Paul. Ruth also happens to be a Christian! Except not really. Like all Christians in any Hollywood movie, Ruth is ignorant, sheltered, and gives up a life long faith because that means she can now swear and “fornicate”. And then spends the rest of the movie uaing as many swear words as possible, whether needed or not. Comedy gold, let me tell you. As a Christian, I understand that Hollywood has no interest in portraying real people, especially not religious people. I also can tell you that there is much in the Christian culture that should be laughed at. However, using the same tired stereotype of the fundamentalist Christian overwhelmed by the rightness of Darwinism and evolution and whose faith crumbles at the first push against it is ridiculous. And insulting. And, frankly, lazy. When was this stereotype ever funny? So, anyways. It really bothered me. It felt out of place and made the scenes with Ruth mean-spirited rather than clever. The movie definitely went downhill from there.
But despite those flaws, I did enjoy the movie overall. Not as much as the previous Frost-Pegg movies, but hopefully Paul will be an aberration not the beginning of a trend and maybe the next movie will have Edgar Wright back at the helm where he belongs.