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Paul

Alien on the Run

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Simon Pegg is perhaps the coolest nerd to ever grace the big screen. He’s built his career around his geek love for sci-fi, zombiesm and comics. Yet, while he’s quick to drop Star Wars references, he’s also very creative and very original.

Paul is no different, complete with real life best friend and on screen buddy Nick Frost. Though they starred together in both Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and early BBC show Spaced, this is the first time Frost and Pegg have actually written a script together. Paul is similar yet different than their past work, and that’s a good thing. It’s what you expect from Pegg and Frost, but also something new and refreshing. Oh, and it’s hilarious.

The film is, at heart, a road trip adventure. Pegg and Frost play alter-egos Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, respectively, two British uber-nerds visiting Comic-Con. Following the geek festivities, they rent an RV and decide to take a road trip to all of America’s alien hot spots, Area 51 included. Things change when they come across the real, flesh-and-blood alien Paul (Seth Rogen), on the run from the CIA en route to “phone home.” Soon, Graeme and Clive are enlisted in Paul’s getaway from Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman).

Along the way they meet a cast of characters, specifically Kristen Wiig as born again Ruth Buggs. Wiig stands out as Buggs, a devout woman forced to question her faith upon seeing an actual alien. Also noteworthy are Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio as Agents Haggard and O’Reilly, enlisted to help Agent Zoil but in the dark as to what they’re actually chasing after.

Of course, the film is ripe with references from almost every alien film you can think of, from Star Wars to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but Pegg and Frost never rely heavily on the asides, instead using them only for kicks. Instead the duo, with Mottola, craft a wholly original story that builds upon the classic alien flick while instilling it with their own humor and sensibilities.

Missing from the formula, however, is frequent collaborator Edgar Wright, who directed all of the duo’s previous work together. Fortunately, Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) is a fantastic replacement.

Those lamenting the loss of Edgar Wright’s signature style should revel in the fact that Mottola is a perfect match for this film. Already well versed in a road trip film, of sorts, (Superbad), he imbues the film with a core sweetness that was more evident in Adventureland. He’s able to create a film that transcends just being a comedy movie and becomes an actual film. Sure, there’s plenty to laugh at, like Paul’s pot habit or frequent references to Clive’s child sized bladder, but there’s also character development and complicated relationships. It’s qualities like these that will be sure to warrant multiple viewings.