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Paul (film)

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Paul (film)

UK release poster
Directed by Greg Mottola
Produced by Nira Park
Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Written by Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Starring Simon Pegg
Nick Frost
Seth Rogen
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Lawrence Sher
Editing by Chris Dickens
Studio Relativity Media
Working Title Films
Big Talk Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
Running time

104 minutes

110 minutes (unrated version)
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1][2]
Box office $97,984,015 [3]

Paul is a 2011 British-American science fiction road comedy film directed by Greg Mottola and written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Seth Rogen provides the voice of the title character. The film contains numerous references to other science fiction films, especially those of Steven Spielberg, as well as to general science fiction fandom. (One of the many taglines was: "Who's up for a close encounter?")


Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings are two British comic book enthusiasts and best friends who have traveled to the United States to attend the annual San Diego Comic-Con International and to take a road trip in a rented RV to visit sites of major extraterrestrial importance. When stopping for something to eat they meet two rednecks and when Graeme laughs with them they start tormenting him. They leave and accidentally dent the rednecks' truck. At night, along the highway, they notice lights following them. The pair thinks the lights are from the rednecks' dented truck, but it's actually a car that passes them and then crashes. They investigate the damaged car, and discover an alien named Paul, who is in desperate need of help.

Although shocked by the appearance of Paul, Graeme agrees to give Paul a ride, but Clive (who fainted after seeing Paul) is displeased about not being consulted about the idea. Later, United States Secret Service Agent Zoil arrives at the site of the crashed car and informs his mysterious female superior, called the "Big Guy", over the radio that he is closing in on Paul. She then recruits two inept rookie agents, Haggard and O'Reilly, to aid in his mission, without informing them about the nature of their target.

Graeme, Clive and Paul pull into an RV park run by Ruth Buggs, a Christian fundamentalist who is blind in one eye, and her over-bearing father, Moses. The trio bond around their camp grill and Paul reveals that since he was captured by the government, he had been advising them in all manner of scientific and sociological achievements. Having divulged everything that he knows, Paul has outlived his usefulness as a receptacle of knowledge, thus his captors intended to surgically remove Paul's brain and harvest his stem cells, in an attempt to harness his physical abilities (Paul had previously demonstrated both invisibility and healing powers). With the help from a friend inside Area 51, Paul sent an SOS to his home planet and was escaping to rendezvous with them.

The next morning, Paul intentionally reveals himself to Ruth during a theological discussion which turns into an argument, and the trio are forced to kidnap her and make a hasty escape. Moses sees Paul while the alien is trying to collect Clive's passport (that he left with Ruth after parking), and, believing him to be a demon, grabs his shotgun and chases after them in his truck. Paul shatters Ruth's faith by sharing his knowledge of the universe via a telepathic link; at first horrified, Ruth suddenly becomes eager to sin, which her father had raised her to fear doing. She does not trust Paul at first, until he heals her eye with his physical abilities.

When the group stops at a bar, Ruth tries to make a phone call to her dad, but Zoil answers, as part of the operation to capture Paul. At the end of the phone call, she runs into the rednecks. She evades them, and informs Graeme and Clive they need to leave, but the rednecks run into the men again, and a fight starts. Moses is also at the bar, and he sees Ruth, but notices her eye. As he is so stunned, he fails to react and loses track of the trio as they dash for the RV. The rednecks chase them down, but Paul appears outside the RV. The two rednecks faint and they drive away. Later that night, Paul, Graeme, Ruth and Clive sit down together near an RV park. Ruth falls asleep but goes back to the RV. In the morning, Graeme and Clive find it difficult to hide Paul from a busy town. Paul goes into a comic book store with Clive as Graeme goes to pick up Ruth. Paul has to pose as a statue there while they wait.

Meanwhile, Ruth was asked questions by Agent Zoil, but lied and said she knew nothing of a one-eyed girl or two British "nerds". She and Graeme then drive into town to pick up Clive and Paul, but Paul had been exposed after he was caught by O'Reilly. Clive and Paul jump into the RV and narrowly escape the town; Haggard and O'Reilly report to Zoil. The rookies are asked to return to the base, but they want to catch the alien themselves. Moses is also in town, still trying to steal Ruth back, so he chases the RV. Clive and Graeme stop to buy fireworks at a shop but end up stealing them after Clive realizes they have no more money.

Paul eventually reveals his intention to return to Tara Walton, a girl whose dog he crashed his ship on in 1947 and who subsequently saved his life, who is now an old woman. The dog's name was Paul, and the alien picked it up as a nickname. After spending her life being ridiculed for what she said she saw, Tara is grateful to see that Paul exists. She turns her gas cooker on to make tea, but is interrupted by Haggard and O'Reilly on one side of the house, and Zoil on the other. As the motley crew escapes and drives off with Paul, O'Reilly shoots at them, and the gas from the stove ignites, destroying Tara's house and seemingly killing O'Reilly. A winded Zoil attempts to follow, but Haggard takes off first, shooting at Moses, running him off the road and catching up to the RV. However, due to an error in judgement, Haggard accidentally drives off a cliff and is killed, leaving Zoil as the last remaining agent in pursuit. He reassures the Big Guy that he will have Paul within an hour, but she declares herself tired of waiting, and informs Zoil that she has ordered a military response.

When Paul, Graeme, Clive, Ruth and Tara arrive at Devils Tower National Monument (a location used in the sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind), they set off fireworks to use as a signal and wait. Eventually, eerie orange lights show up over the surrounding trees, and everyone believes that it's Paul's rescue ship. However, it's an army helicopter, with the Big Guy on board. As she and three troops move to shoot Paul, Zoil arrives, and it's revealed that he was Paul's inside contact who helped him to escape, that they're friends, and that his first name is Lorenzo. Zoil disarms the men, but is shot in the shoulder by the Big Guy. When the Big Guy threatens Ruth, Tara punches her out (shouting "Get away from her, you bitch!"), but Moses appears with his shotgun and mortally wounds Graeme while aiming at Paul. Paul heals him and collapses, briefly appearing to be dead before he quickly recovers; Moses proclaims this to be a miracle from God. The Big Guy regains consciousness, but is immediately crushed to death by the arriving alien ship. Paul begins to depart and informs Tara that she is coming with him to live a better life. He bids farewell to his friends, hoping to meet them again one day.

Two years later, Graeme, Clive, Ruth, and O'Reilly (who is revealed to have survived the explosion), are shown again at the Comic-Con convention, where Graeme and Clive are promoting Paul, their new hit novel.


In an interview for the DVD release of Paul, Pegg and Frost said they made the film to demonstrate their love for Steven Spielberg's films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, as well as their favorite science fiction films.[8] After they mentioned the project to Spielberg, he suggested he might make a cameo appearance, and a scene was added to include him as a voice on a speakerphone in 1980 discussing ideas with Paul for his soon to become box office hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[9][10] According to Robert Kirkman, he, along with Invincible co-creator Cory Walker and current Invincible artist Ryan Ottley, had a cameo in the film as The Big Guy's henchmen.[11]


The premise for Paul came from Pegg and Frost in 2003, while they were filming Shaun of the Dead.[1]

To help with the script, Pegg and Frost went on their own road trip across America and used ideas from it to add to the script.[12]

According to Mottola, the film was given the green-light shortly before the late-2000s recession; if it had been delayed, "they probably wouldn’t have made the movie."[1] The budget for the film was around $40 million, which included about $15 million for 550 effects shots from Double Negative.[1]

Principal photography, including 50 days in the New Mexico desert,[1] wrapped on 9 September 2009,[13] with additional scenes filmed in July 2010 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, which was designed to look like the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.[14] After obtaining permission to use the Comic-Con brand, the settings had to be changed to avoid crowds, and extras were used to portray attendees since there had been some issues regarding filming inside San Diego's actual convention center. As a result, only exterior shots of the San Diego Convention Center were filmed on the streets of downtown San Diego.

During filming, Joe Lo Truglio was a stand-in for the character Paul, the only character who was created by CGI. Seth Rogen did some motion capture in pre-production and voice work during post-production.[15]

The cover art for the fictional comic book Encounter Briefs was drawn by alternative comics artist Daniel Clowes.[16]

Numerous scenes throughout the film deal with the controversy of Darwin and Evolution vs. Religion and Creationism, with the character of Paul the alien being the proverbial "fly-in-the-ointment" of conservative Judeo-Christian doctrine. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who are atheists,[17] have alluded in BBC Radio interviews they had wished to delve deeper into the controversy but cut several scenes short in favour of flow and timing on film.


A teaser trailer was released on 18 October 2010.[18] The teaser trailer featured the song "Just the Two of Us" by Grover Washington, Jr. and "Run With the Wolves" by The Prodigy. It was shown before certain screenings of Vampires Suck, Let Me In, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Burke and Hare, The Green Hornet and The Social Network in the United Kingdom.

The American trailer featured "It Came Out of the Sky" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Human Rocket" by Devo, and "All Over the World" by the Electric Light Orchestra.

The film had its world premiere in London on 7 February 2011.[19]


As of June 2013, the film has received generally positive reviews.

According to website Metacritic, Paul has received "mixed or average reviews", holding a score of 57 out of 100 based on 37 reviews.[20]

Empire rated the film "excellent" (four stars out of five) stating, "Broader and more accessible than either Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, Paul is pure Pegg and Frost – clever, cheeky and very, very funny. You'll never look at E.T. in the same way again."[21] SFX also gives the film four stars out of five, saying "the film veers dangerously close to alienating (no pun intended) all but its geek core audience, [though] the more obvious concessions to a mainstream crowd [are] never enough to derail the film's laugh-a-minute ride"; SFX also calls it a "triumph of visual effects, convincing characterisation and bad taste humour."[22]

Peter Bradshaw gave the film two stars out of five and called it a "goofy, amiable piece of silliness" exhibiting "self-indulgence" and possessing a "distinct shortage of real gags".[23] On the same scale Nigel Andrews gave the film only one star, calling it a "faltering extraterrestrial knockabout".[19] The Independent grades the film two stars out of five, saying "Pegg is likeable as usual, Frost more doltish than usual, and Kristen Wiig an appealing convert from Bible thumper to ladette", and notes that "from time to time, clever ideas rear their heads – like the idea that 'Paul' has been the brains behind all science fiction and UFO initiatives for the last 30 years, including Close Encounters and The X-Files – but they soon return to the film's default setting of laddish japes and a conviction that the word 'cocksucker' will always get a laugh."[24] Common Sense Media gave the film three stars and an iffy rating for ages 16–17. Saying "Cheerfully dumb sci-fi comedy has sex, drug humor."[25]

IGN provided Paul with three reviews. The first gave the film three stars, stating, "Simon Pegg and Nick Frost send up everything from Star Wars to E.T. in this sci-fi comedy... As with Pegg and Frost's previous films together, it's derivative stuff, the plot similar to countless sci-fi flicks of the past; paying homage to the good and gently ribbing the bad."[26] Less excited was their review for the British Blu-ray version, which said, "But unlike previous Pegg and Frost collaborations – Shaun of the Dead and Hot FuzzPaul does not generously reward repeat viewing. That's not to say it's a bad film at all; it has a strong central premise, which carries much of the film, loveable central characters, the odd neat idea (it turns out that Paul inspired all major works of SF post-1950, from Close Encounters to The X-Files, and has a direct line to Steven Spielberg), and a couple of genuine laughs, but it never feels more than a rough sketch of a bigger, much funnier movie."[27] In a second review for the American Blu-ray version, IGN compared the movie with Galaxy Quest and wrote that it is "richly layered with clever homage, a refreshingly original alien hero, delightfully entertaining characters and great performances from our leads and their supporting players."[28]

Upon its U.S. release, Roger Ebert gave Paul a mixed review of two and a half stars out of four, saying it's a "movie that teeters on the edge of being really pretty good and loses its way. I'm not sure quite what goes wrong, but you can see that it might have gone right."[29] According to Manohla Dargis, "As genial, foolish and demographically engineered as it sounds (hailing all fan boys and girls), Paul is at once a buddy flick and a classic American road movie of self- (and other) discovery, interspersed with buckets of expletives and some startling (especially for a big-studio release) pokes at Christian fundamentalism....The movie has its attractions, notably Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost (and of course Mr. Bateman), whose ductile, (noncomputer) animated and open faces were made for comedy....Paul proves the weak link. One problem is that Mr. Rogen, however comically inclined, has become overexposed, and there’s just something too familiar and predictable about this voice coming out of that body. Yet while Paul seems great conceptually, he’s not particularly interesting or surprising, despite a funny recap of what he’s been doing on his time on Earth. With his vibe and vocabulary, shorts and weed, juvenilia and sentimentality, Paul turns out to be not much different from a lot of guys who have wreaked comedy havoc on American screens lately, even if this one only wants to beam up, not knock up."[30]

Box office

In North America, Paul opened in March 2011 at #5, with $13,043,310 behind Limitless, Rango, Battle: Los Angeles, and The Lincoln Lawyer.[31] The film closed after 63 days in theaters, grossing $37,412,945 domestically, just below its $40 million budget. The film grossed $60,571,070 internationally, with a total of $97,984,015 worldwide.[3]

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on 13 June 2011 and was released in North America on 9 August 2011. There are three versions of the film.[28]

The DVD release features an audio commentary with director Greg Mottola, stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Hader, and producer Nira Park; 2 featurettes; "Simon's Silly Faces"; photo galleries; storyboards and posters; and a blooper reel. The US Blu-ray release features all the DVD supplements with nine more featurettes and a digital copy.[32]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2011 National Movie Award Best Comedy Won
2012 Annie Award Character Animation in a Live Action Production Michael Hull
David Lowry
2012 Visual Effects Society Award Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Nominated


Paul: Music From The Original Motion Picture was released on 21 February 2011 by Universal Music.[33] It intersperses David Arnold's score with the rock songs appearing in the film.

All songs written and composed by David Arnold, except as noted. 
No. TitleWriter(s)Performer(s) Length
1. "Paul Opening Title"   David Arnold 1:56
2. "Another Girl, Another Planet" (from The Only Ones, 1978)Peter PerrettThe Only Ones 3:00
3. "Road Trip Number 1"   David Arnold 0:57
4. "Just the Two of Us"  Withers, Ralph MacDonald, William SalterBill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr. 3:57
5. "Passport"   David Arnold 1:18
6. "Road Trip Number 2"   David Arnold 1:34
7. "Flying Saucers Rock 'N' Roll" (single, 1957)Harold Ray ScottBilly Lee Riley 2:02
8. "Window Shopping"   David Arnold 0:51
9. "Hello It's Me" (from Something/Anything?, 1972)RundgrenTodd Rundgren 4:20
10. "End of the Road Trip"   David Arnold 1:38
11. "Dancing in the Moonlight" (from Dancing In The Moonlight, 1973)Sherman KellyKing Harvest 2:56
12. "Campfire Confession"   David Arnold 1:24
13. "Got to Give It Up" (from Live at the London Palladium, 1977)GayeMarvin Gaye 6:01
14. "A Little Talk with Paul"   David Arnold 1:21
15. "I Chase the Devil" (from War Ina Babylon, 1976)Lee Perry, RomeoMax Romeo 3:22
16. "Chase"   David Arnold 1:18
17. "Cantina Band"  John WilliamsSyd Masters & The Swing Riders 3:42
18. "You Gotta Try"   David Arnold 2:51
19. "1st Contact"   David Arnold 1:17
20. "Planet Claire" (from The B-52's, 1979)Fred Schneider, Keith StricklandThe B-52's 4:33
21. "Goodbye (It's a Little Awkward)"   David Arnold 4:42
22. "All Over the World" (from Xanadu, 1980)Jeff LynneElectric Light Orchestra 4:05

Potential sequel

Simon Pegg has stated that he would like to film a sequel to Paul called Pauls.[34] However, the time and expense it would take means it is unlikely to happen until costs go down.[35]


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic

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