Review- Paul

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in Paul (Universal)

The first thing that needs saying about Paul is that it’s the first comedy I’ve seen in a while that struck me as one that will likely get better upon being re-viewed. However, unlike Pegg and Frost’s previous films, those which were pairings with Edgar Wright this film is more homage than homage/parody. There isn’t really that delightful and subtle transition that occurred in the initial installments of the Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy to elevate this one but it does not stop this film from being very funny indeed.

The lack of subtlety translates a bit to the humor of this film as well. Not that it ever really hits a discordant note comedically but it doesn’t have the well-hidden jokes or the built-in verve that the earlier films do. What it does have is a tremendous spirit and a genuine love for all things in the overarching genre that can best be called Fanboy. Whether it sci-fi, comics or anything else you can find at Comic Con this film loves it an embraces it.

It’s that spirit that really propels the film. There are a few things that become a bit too present like the mysterious boss, who is seeking to capture the alien (the eponymous Paul voiced by Seth Rogen), which is just an overly elaborate set-up to a short-lived cameo by Sigourney Weaver which has already been spoiled by the marketing department- see it does factor in sometimes.

Then there are the dueling chasers: the underling Agent Zoil (played by Jason Bateman, and yes there’s a great joke made about the name) and his subordinates Haggard and O’Reilly (Bill Hader and Joe Lo Trugio) who are kept in the dark to an extent about what this chase it really about. As if that subplot wasn’t enough the chase becomes even more cluttered adding Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch) whose daughter Ruth (Kristen Wiig) ran off with them, to the mix.

That is not to say that these things don’t fit, aren’t funny and don’t add something to the mix but they remain a bit separate and don’t represent a realistic threat until very late so most of the time it’s additional comedy added and more time allotted than is maybe needed. These elements aren’t folded in as neatly as they could be.

In this day and age when any animated character that exists is automatically endangered when there isn’t a name attached to play the role the concept of invisibility is very important, which if you haven’t read an animated review of mine before means the ability of the actor to blend into the film and become his character such that we don’t think of his face when we hear his voice. This was a huge hurdle for Despicable Me that was eventually cleared and in this film it was one of its greater struggles. Rogen’s voice is not only very distinctive but also rather inflexible such that until the character builds sufficiently it’s hard to not think of him.

The CG does help pull it through, however, as always it seems to be the case that when there is only one major project that the animators need to deal there seems to be greater attention to detail paid. Paul looks quite real some of the time and perhaps more importantly blends in with his surroundings very well.

The cast overall does an outstanding job. In the end Rogen does manage to make Paul rather an endearing if different extra-terrestrial than those we’ve come to know. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg show that they are the world’s premiere comedic duo at the moment and show no signs of slowing down. Kristen Wiig adds just the right amount of zaniness to the mix and be prepared to be surprised but an important, moving and hilarious supporting turn by Blythe Danner.

What is always very apparent with films that involve Pegg and Frost as both writers and performers is that you know their material comes from a place of genuine affection despite the spoofing and jokes. As a film fan it will remind you some of your very favorite films but also tell a tale of its own which is very worthy of your time.

8/10

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Review- Beastly

Mary-Kate Olsen and Alex Pettyfer in Beastly (CBS Films)

Beastly is the kind of film that’s not going to waste your time to help you decide whether or not you’re going to enjoy it. This film starts with such a ridiculous, unrealistic and disingenuous tone that my mind was made up almost in record time, however, there is a point its trying to make it just goes about trying to make it with the subtlety of a roundhouse kick to the jaw. There is not a piece of the dialogue or acting within the first few minutes that I believe for a second. Whether it be the over-the-top-look-at-me-I’m-a-modern-day-Dorian-Gray dialogue by the film’s protagonist Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the incredibly crass ‘Embrace the Suck’ slogan and the preposterous Hey-I’m-A-Witch acting and cinematography revolving the film’s antagonist, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen).

That’s just a small sampling of the ridiculousness that ensues in this film right off the bat. It’s hard enough to sell an audience on a Beauty and the Beast plot in the modern day when you set the film up with this lack of realism. The witch comments really aren’t a throwaway. The film wants to waste no time and get right into it and it’s very obvious the outcast character, Kendra, is actually a witch but it sacrifices any semblance of realism to do so.

The dialogue never really sparkles but really struggles in this portion of the film such that it’s painful to listen to. It’s extraordinarily hard to understand, get behind and in any way identify with these characters.

Things do improve from this pathetic start, however, not nearly by enough. Not in the slightest. An example would be that while the makeup and prosthetic work is rather good when looked at in isolation, within the context of this narrative it fails the film also. It doesn’t do enough to camouflage who this kid really is, as the love interest Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is supposed to not be able to recognize him. Not only that but it virtually screams who he is by scrolling the words “Embrace” and “Suck” where his eyebrows used to be.

As if this wasn’t enough there are the other instances where the film decides to try our patience and and think logically far too much. There is a long conversation between Kyle and Lindy at a party where they do not look at each other, there is the fact that structurally Kyle’s face is the same as is his voice yet he is never recognized or suspected and Lindy believes his cover until he’s healed.

Even some of the better touches are counteracted by miscalculations such as when Kyle is trying to woo Lindy, and is of course trying to pick meaningful rather than expensive gifts, he gets her a case of Jujy Fruits. Yet, “How did you know I liked these enough to get me ten?” is a question that is never asked.

The one thing that consistently raises the level of this film ever so slightly are some of the performances. Mainly that of Neil Patrick Harris in a supporting role where he does his best to add true comic relief to the film. That being said Alex Pettyfer is also better with a more believable American accent than in I Am Number Four, he just has a lot less material to work with.

There isn’t a lot in terms of redeeming qualities in Beastly, which is even more unforgivable when you’re building the story on a tried and true template and at times makes it an infuriating and frustrating experience. It is likely to go down as one of the worst of the year.

2/10