I have always heard about advance screenings of movies, but I had never had the opportunity to take part in one before. This week I received some free passes to see an advanced screening of Paul. As my readers may know, Paul is ranked number two in my Most Anticipated Films of 2011 list. It is now number one (out of one) on my favorite films of 2011 list.
Paul is a comedy/sci-fi about two Brits who fly to America to attend Comic-Con in San Diego, then continue with a road trip to some of America's UFO hot spots. While on the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada, they stumble upon an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is trying to escape the government. Paul crash-landed in Wyoming in the 1940's, and had since been kept a secret from the outside world. It turns out he wasn't necessarily imprisoned however. He in fact worked as sort of a liason to many things, including having a large influence on science-fiction writers and film makers. When questioned about why he looks like all the stereotypical images of aliens, he says it was a precautionary measure taken by the government so if he escaped, people would be accustomed to his appearance.
So Paul and his two new friends, Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), are on the run (in an RV) from Paul's handler Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and two rookie agents who don't know they are in pursuit of an alien, Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Jo Lo Truglio). Along they way they pick up an extremely Christian one-eyed woman named Ruth Buggs, played by the always wonderful Kristen Wiig. As you can see, Paul has a great comedic cast of actors whose names you may not know but whose faces you're sure to recognize. In fact, there are several cameos that will make you say, "Hey, it's that guy/girl! You know, the one from [fill in the blank]."
The thing that I found most entertaining about this film was the countless references to science fiction. References to such films as Star Trek, Star Wars, Predator and Alien to name a few. Also, Paul references several Spielberg films, including E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. Often these references are extremely subtle and you'll only catch them if you're a big fan (read: Geek) of all of these things, which I am.
People might get a bit turned off by the fact that the main character in this live-action film is a CGI character. I found myself not even thinking of Paul as an animated character. The animation was superb and the interactions with the other characters were very lifelike. I also personally enjoyed the scenery, as virtually the whole movie was filmed in New Mexico.
I very much enjoyed Paul, and it appeared as if the packed theater audience did as well. Hopefully what you've read here will inspire you to see this film. Paul is rated R for adult language, so keep in mind there is lots of cursing. It is mostly used for comedic purposes though, so hopefully that doesn't turn you off too much. I give Paul 8 out of 10 stars on IMDB. It probably would have been a 7, but I felt too much joy from all the references. I found myself shaking my head about this one guy sitting behind me who kept saying, "Why is that funny? I don't get it."
Paul will be officially released in theaters March 18.