Paul (2011)

Paul

Rated MA15+

Starring Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Seth Rogen

Growing up, I loved me some science fiction. In my early years I lived on a staple diet of Doctor Who re-runs and movies full of aliens. I owned a book shelf full of sci-fi novels. Each week I would scour the TV guide so I could program the VCR to catch all those late night science fiction goodness. I’d seen every sci-fi movie at the video shop multiple times. Some of my younger readers might be wondering what a video or VCR is. You make me feel old.

The movie Paul is aimed squarely at guys like me. When you take into account that the movies starts at San Diego Comic-Con, the Mecca for comic book and sci-fi geeks, it’s not half obvious who the target market is. The two leads, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, play British geeks visiting Comic-Con they both comment that even though they’re miles from home, they feel at home. And From this point I want to be right there with them. When they pick up an extra-terrestrial hitchhiker, road trip hijinks ensue.

I wanted to love this movie. I was prepared to embrace this and own it as a movie that represented me. However there were some significant factors holding me back.

The alien hitchhiker at the centre of the film is a short, grey, CGI rendered bloke called Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Doesn’t sound much like an alien name? That’s the point. Paul takes the extraordinary and brings it down to earth. Yes, I know that’s a pun. And I don’t care. Paul is not your typical alien. He’s a pot smoking, foul mouthed cynic. And that’s the first problem with I have with this movie. The foul language is intense. It’s full on and frequent. Did I really want to hear about Paul’s genitals? No I did not. There’s just too much of the bad language to easily ignore. And it didn’t really need to be there.

The alien Paul has been living as a guest of the US government for the last few decades. But now he’s outlived his usefulness and is on the run, trying to get back home before the government dissects him. So we have a standard road trip chase on our hands, with men in black, angry rednecks and gun totting Bible freaks.

For me, the weakest part of the movie was the depiction of Christianity. Early on in the movie, the road trippers add a woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) to their entourage. Ruth has been raised as the kind of Christian that errs on the side of extreme and pretty much defines the term “religious whack job”. Her encounter with Paul causes her to throw away her faith because somehow the existence of aliens somehow disproves the existence of God. And it’s not like this is a gradual process. Apparently all you need to cast away a life time of faith is ten minutes.

Ruth’s Christianity is not real Christianity. Her faith is based on how old she thinks the Bible says the earth is and the non-existence of evolution. Her faith is not grounded in Jesus. Paul wants you to believe that Christianity is stupid. That a rational argument is all that it takes to kick God to the curb. But Christianity is about a guy called Jesus. Christianity is a faith built on a real person that did real things. There were many witnesses. It’s been written down. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) You can trust your faith.

Do aliens disprove God? I’m going to hold off on that. I’ll save thinking about it until the day aliens actually rock up. When aliens land on our doorstep then I’ll make a decision. Because before then, it’s just speculation. It’s using a maybe to disprove a certainty. It’s not bad to think about these things. But don’t let it mess with your understanding of God.

I enjoyed Paul. It’s got heart, funny scenes and a great cast. If you know your old school sci-fi then you’ll enjoy it even more. If you’re the kind of person who’d have fun reenacting the fight scene between Kirk and the Gorn, you’re going to have some fun with this. I could do without the drugs and the swearing, but overall it’s a fun road trip movie.

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About Joel A Moroney

Associate Minister at St Luke's Anglican Church, Liverpool (in the Sydney Diocese). A very strange man, but he usually has Pez, so that makes it okay.
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