OK, so I've said in the past that I will see anything with Simon Pegg in it. To make this one even more must-see is that he was re-teaming with his Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz co-star, Nick Frost. Add in a supporting cast with the likes of Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio, and it's even better. Heck, I even like the director, Greg Mottola, who made such films as Superbad and Adventureland. The first strike against me seeing it, however, was that it wasn't directed by Edgar Wright. The second strike was Seth Rogen doing the voice of the titutlar character--I have no problem with Mr. Rogen, but his voice is too distinctive, which I figured would make for too much of a distraction from the character. The third strike was the trailer and the fact that it was painfully unfunny. Needless to say, I was in a bind. I desperately wanted to see it for Pegg and Frost, but at the same time... I couldn't have been less excited about it. Then reviews started coming in and saying that it wasn't great, though not bad, either.
Enter Jess, who tells me how funny it is and assures me I'll enjoy it. She's rarely steered me wrong. Then Jason came in and also told me he enjoyed it, and we tend to have similar tastes, as well. Mix those impressions in with the fact I'm gonna be talking about it on a future LAMBcast, and I decided to give in and go see it. For those of you not in the know, the movie focuses on two buddies, Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), who are on holiday to go to Comic-Con. Afterwards, they go on a road trip to visit alien-related tourist spots. Along the way, however, the stumble upon Paul (Seth Rogen), an alien who needs their help. The government is after him, and he needs to get off the planet. Chasing behind are Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) and agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), though the latter two don't really know what the mission is. Meanwhile, Graeme, Clive, and Paul come across a bible thumper named Ruth (Kristin Wiig) and end up having to kidnap her after she sees Paul. The rest is a race to the finish as the gang tries to stay one step ahead of the ones who want Paul in their custody. There's also a supporting cast including Jane Lynch, John Carroll Lynch, Jeffrey Tambor, David Koechner, and a couple cameos I don't wanna spoil.
So what did I think? Jess and Jason didn't steer me wrong. I thought the movie was pretty funny, and the trailer really doesn't do the movie justice in my opinion. I wasn't rolling around laughing, but I gave a good chuckle here and there, and I was smiling throughout. The story itself is pretty straight-forward, but there are some interesting twists in the story. We find out little by little as the movie goes on about Paul's history, and there are some interesting and funny moments.
The big thing with this movie, though, is the actors. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost remain to be top notch. Both are lovable nerds who are buddy-buddy as usual. Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio are goofy government agents, with Lo Truglio being a nerd himself. Then there's the cool yet menacing Jason Bateman who gives us an interesting villain (though there is someone higher up than him). There's also a funny running joke about a sci-fi writer played by Jeffrey Tambor--and although his role is brief, he plays the annoyed veteran writer well. But then we get down to one of my biggest issues with the film going into it--Seth Rogen. Like I said, I don't have a problem with Rogen like a lot of people do, but I always felt he was the wrong choice to voice Paul due to the recognizable nature of his voice. After seeing the film, I still kinda think that. Looking past that, he does do very well with the part and making him likable. It's just that, for the majority of the film, all I could think was "this is Seth Rogen, not an alien."
And with another actor doing the voice, I might have seen Paul as truly an alien being. The CGI for the movie was very well done. For some reason, trailers always seem to make CGI worse than it ends up in the actual movie. But within the full context of the film, the CGI of Paul (and really any other time it's used) was very well done. He fit right in.
One of the funnest parts of the movie was all the references to other sci-fi and alien films. There are a ton in there, including but definitely not limited to E.T., Close Encounters, Star Wars, and Star Trek. In this instance, you can totally tell the movie was written by Pegg and Frost, as there is still that referential humor from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, just without the kinetic directorial style of Edgar Wright. It also doesn't have the self-referential humor of the aforementioned films, where things are revisited in a different context at least 2 or 3 times throughout the film. I'm assuming that comes from Edgar Wright's side of the scriptwriting.
As it is, though, the movie is fun and it exceeded my expectations. Granted, I went in with them rather low (despite Jess and Jason's assurances). But still, I would definitely see it again, and I'll probably buy it when it comes out on DVD. So maybe next time, I won't doubt Simon Pegg/Nick Frost or Greg Mottola. I say that if you're a sci-fi film fan, you'll probably really enjoy the film because you'll pick up on all the references. If you're going for Pegg and Frost, you won't be getting another Edgar Wright film, but you also won't be too disappointed as the chemistry is still there. It's not the best comedy ever, but it's still a fun time.