If there’s a word I’d use to describe Paul it’s affectionate. It’s not a gutbuster, but it is funny and it is warm. It’s the warmth, actually, that struck me the most. As a road-trip movie about two science fiction geeks who help a wise-cracking alien get back to his ship, it could have all turned out a bit National Lampoon. Instead it’s got a heart, and a rather larger one than I’d expected.
Another thing that struck me – really struck me – was the chemistry between the three leads. It’s a while since we first gasped at Gollum, so we’ve all rather got used to actor-driven CGI characters being seamlessly integrated into live-action movies. Technically, Paul the character is beautifully realised, but the thing that really makes Paul the movie tick is the effortlessness way Simon Pegg and Nick Frost interact with Seth Rogen’s alien. Forget the pixels, if the performances aren’t there the animation’s going to die on its feet. We take it so much for granted now, but acting to a greenscreen or a guy in a gimp-suit can’t be easy.
As a science fiction geek myself, I was of course delighted by all the in-jokes. Paul’s ‘Puck’ smile, the shots framed in homage to countless other SF movies, all the stolen lines and quotes and of course Sigourney Weaver’s deliciously hammy cameo. Steven Spielberg turns up too, but I won’t say where. At times I thought the story felt slender, and there was the occasional hiccup in pace, but that darned affection saw me through.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the bookstore to start my Adam Shadowchild collection.