Sunday, October 16, 2011

Paul (2011) ***

In “Paul,” nerdy, British comic/sci-fi fans Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) take their dream vacation to the U.S. to visit Comic-Con, then RV around to different fabled UFO sites. Near a place called the Black Mailbox, they encounter an actual alien, escaped from a government base. The alien, Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), hitches a ride, and the trio find themselves running from government agents (Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio), rednecks, and the crazy father of a girl (Kristen Wiig) whom they accidentally abduct.

I think the key to watching “Paul” is having reasonable expectations. I saw some negative reviews of the movie, and I think those folks may have suffered from looking at the awesome cast list (see above) and thinking, “Whoa! Best. Comedy. Ever!” “Paul” is clearly not the best comedy ever, although with that cast, you couldn’t be blamed for expecting a bit more than you get with this movie. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg wrote it, and it must be said that their script is a rather straightforward, sophomoric, ’80’s-style alien comedy. The all-star comedic cast is so good, however, that the movie is still highly entertaining. The film relies a bit too heavily on bathroom and stoner humor as well as non-stop homages to sci-fi films past, but at the end of the evening it’s a pretty good time. The one caveat is that the portrayal of Kristen Wiig’s character and her father as creepy, fundamentalist Christians is typically over-the-top and will probably offend a lot of people of faith.

There isn’t much more to say about “Paul.” No new ground is broken here. This is a formulaic, but fun comedy with a great cast. Don’t expect the moon, and you won’t be disappointed.

3 stars

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) **

Netflix’s “watch it now” feature is almost as bad as cable for inducing a person to re-watch movies of questionable worth. You know what I’m talking about. You flop down on the couch, pull up the menu, and you’re like, “Hey, ‘Meet the Fockers’ is about to start.” Next thing you know you’ve lost 2 precious hours of your life. “Watch it Now” does the same thing to me. Just this year I have suckered myself into re-watching “Ghostbusters” and “The Running Man,” and now I can add “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” to the list.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are the stoner characters who loitered outside the convenience store in “Clerks,” then showed up in the next few Kevin Smith movies, including “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy.” They are really hilarious in small doses, but the fact that these guys are essentially the comic relief in movies that are already comedies should tell you something about how broadly drawn they are. I found that an entire movie about these characters is a bit too silly for me.

The story is that Jay and Silent Bob learn that their old friend Banky (Jason Lee’s character from “Chasing Amy”) is making a movie based on them and their pot-dealing exploits. The pair initially want to get some money out of the deal, but when they get a look at the negative internet comments circulating about them (“These guys are too stupid to live.” “F--- Jay and Silent Bob. F--- them in their stupid a-----s!”) they decide to try to stop the movie, hoping to silence the internet name-calling. What follows is a wacky road trip as the guys hitchhike from New Jersey to Hollywood, hooking up along the way with Shannon Elizabeth and her gang of hot babe heist artists, including Eliza Dushku wearing all the blue eye shadow in the world. The movie features cameos from a ton of characters from the previous Kevin Smith movies, which is fairly fun, but there are too many instances of winking at the camera to let us know they are in on the joke.

“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” has some laughs, but never reaches the level of Kevin Smith’s better films. What fun there is here is strictly for Kevin Smith fans who have seen his other films, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend sitting down for a second viewing.

2 stars out of 5