My take on Paul

My take on Paul

I was pretty surprised when my non-geek Significant Other suggested we go see Paul, the latest Pegg/Frost genre send-up.  We do like going to the movies, and go fairly often…but this just didn’t seem like the choice that would be made.

First, let me set my Pegg/Frost (I want to call them “Frosty Pegg”, but that doesn’t seem right) cred.  I thought Shaun of the Dead was a really good movie, and I’ve watched all of Spaced (which I recommend…to the right people). 

However, the trailer for this seemed iffy to me…it just didn’t seem that clever. 

Seeing the movie, my reaction, as my offspring would say, was “meh”.  It was okay, and had some funny points.  However, while it was supposed to be deeply geeky, it seemed like they’d gone for the low-hanging fruit.  I don’t want to be spoilery, but the jokes seemed like somebody who spent a few hours researching geeks on the internet would do.  Slave Leia outfit?  They did that on Friends…

The character Paul is interesting, but like the rest of the characters, seems too cartoony for us to really care about him.  That was one of the strengths of Shaun and Spaced: there was real heart there.  This struck me as nods to geeks, but didn’t get any deeper, really, than Alien and E.T and Back to the Future….and that’s not very deep. 

Of course, a true geekfest (like Spaced) has somewhat limited appeal.

I don’t want you to think it was a waste of time, it wasn’t.  I had some fun…although the best parts were probably in the trailer. 

For example, I liked how Frost’s character is almost always introduced by Pegg’s character as “the writer Clive Goslings”…not just Clive.  That rang true to me.

Seth Rogen, voicing Paul, is unusually restrained in the part, and that works.  Another actor might have gone a lot bigger.

John Carrol Lynch (Drew’s transvestite brother on the Drew Carey Show) was virtually unrecognizable (and that’s a tribute to his acting).

Jane Lynch (I believe they are unrelated), Glee’s Sue Sylvester, has a small part set in the Little A’Le’Inn, a real alien-themed restaurant near Area 51.

What I would say is…don’t avoid it.  If some non-geek wants to take you to a geeky movie, accept the gesture and go to Paul.  Seeing it, though, I think I felt a little like serious artificial intelligence researchers feel about Watson the IBM creation that competed on Jeopardy.  It’s a little irritating that people will think that’s the real thing, but it’s nice to see the interest.  ;)

Oh, one odd thing, and I’d appreciate any insight.  They made a real point about referring to a character named Keith Nash.  It seemed like they expected us to recognize the name, but I didn’t.  Maybe it’s an in-joke, but if anybody knows a geek reference to “Keith Nash” I d appreciate hearing it  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. 

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37 Responses to “My take on Paul”

  1. Zach Says:

    About.com had an inter view with Pegg and here’s what he had to say about Keith Nash…

    Is Keith Nash a reference to someone?
    Simon Pegg: “No.”

    You guys say his name three times.
    Simon Pegg: “No. We just like the name Keith Nash. We just thought it was a funny name. Well, it’s not a funny name, it’s an ordinary name and had some comic value.”

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zach!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know! My geek cred is intact. :)

  2. Robert Miller Says:

    In true geek fashion, you are quite a bit over critical. Pegg & Frost put together a great movie and you are reviewing it like it was up for an academy award. Lighten up, Francis. These guys are geeks and great movie makers. Their body of work is much larger than “Shaun & Spaced,” and the fact that you neglected to mention the most overt sci-fi references in Paul, of which there are many (Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars), tells me that your review should count for nothing and that you are not in touch with the target audience, as you seemingly claim to be. It is a great, well-done and well executed movie for true fans of the science fiction genre.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Robert!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I love it when people are enthusiastic about a work…that, to me, is part of the true geek ethos. That, and of course, this is only my own opinion, is one of the things that makes geeks accepting and positive. If you want to have an intense fan feeling for Waldo Kitty or Brother Power, we accept and embrace that.

      As for my take (not a review…for me, there is a difference) on Paul counting for nothing, it’s your scoreboard, so you can be as exclusionary or inclusive as you want. :) For me, I embrace what Doctor Who once said:

      Harriet Jones (played by Penelope Wilton): “Is it important?”
      The Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston): “Everything’s important.”
      –World War Three episode of Doctor Who
      screenplay by Russell T. Davies

      The reason why I didn’t do the obvious references was…that was sort of my point. Anyone can do the obvious references, geek or not. I was looking for something more obscure than that. Shaun of the Dead had, for me, that love of the genre, by going deeper. By the way, although you comment that I didn’t mention Close Encounters and Star Wars (two great geek movies that non-geeks also enjoyed, and that I would expect the least geeky among us to reference as geek movies), I specifically mentioned Slave Leia in my post…

      I appreciate you taking the time and effort to write and to defend a movie you enjoyed more than I did. I agree with you Pegg and Frost are great, and I may have held them to a higher standard on this than I would have if, say, Garry Marshall was asked by a studio to make a geek movie. I like Garry Marshall, by the way, and for all I know, he may have a complete run of Herbie in his home.

      I’ll definitely look at your suggestion that I was overly critical…I’m rarely accused of that. :) I always say that’s one of the best things about being a geek: low threshold of amusement. :) I suppose this may be a bit like many doctors not watching House…one’s judgement may be different when something is (or purports to be) in your area . It’s that “true fan” part in your last statement that I question here…I think this one was made for people more casually familiar with the oeuvre…and that’s fine with me.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  3. top movies Says:

    top movies…

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  4. Sue Says:

    I love this movie, it’s loads of good natured laundry.

  5. William taylor Says:

    Keith Nash is the cover name for the alien recovered from a crash site in Mexico..well known code name at NSA

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, William!

      Do you have a source for that? I’d like to read more about what you are reporting.

  6. Marla Rose Says:

    I LOVED “Paul”. i loved all the jokes, scf-fi referrences, it made me laugh, i thought it had heart. i totally enjoyed it all. some dialogue was a little raunchy, but that seems to be the norm these days.
    i like movies that are FUN. people forget movies are about entertainment. this one does!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Marla!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. :) I’m always happy when people are enthusiastic…that’s one of the big definitions of being a geek.

      If people like things more than I do, that’s a good thing. I pretty much never dislike a movie (or book, or other entertainment), but I do like some more than others.

  7. Bill Says:

    I thought the movie was really good as a social commentary. It was essentially two things as a social commentary. First, it was a foreigner’s (alien’s) view of America, whether from the U.K., Central America, or space. At the same time, the foreigners were assimilating American culture. Paul, the actual extraterrestrial was the American due to his amount of time in America, relative to Clive and Graeme. They humorously, and quite accurately, repeatedly returned to America’s homophobia, obsession with guns, and religiosity. I found it absolutely fascinating. The scene with the stigmata just tops it off. It was hilarious and actually worth thinking about. That’s pretty “tittie farting” rare.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bill!

      That’s an astute observation and an intriguing interpretation. I may watch it again with that in mind, and see how I feel about it. :)

    • 2 silly sisters in MN Says:

      OMG!!! Thanks Bill! I am glad to hear my sister & I weren’t the only ones to make the “social commentary” connection! We love this movie! It’s good to be silly- all of the references were great & even the music selection made us laugh! Pegg & Frost did a great job of making fun of us homophobic gun-obsessed Americans! Thanks guys! You rock! (and yes! As a matter of fact, we did laugh so hard we almost pee’d our pants like Clive!! :-).
      Much love! Keep up the good work!

  8. Aag Writes Says:

    Yeah, “Paul” was a little weak, in the same sense that “Evolution” was weak, though both are enjoyable anough movies as long as you know what you’re getting into. There was a similar feel; low budget comedies, is all. At least they weren’t beer-soaked teenybopper titty flicks. What brought me to this page, amusingly enough, is that I was trying to figure out what “Keith Nash” was a reference to. You’re right, it sounded so contrived, I thought it had to be significant somehow.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Aag!

      Sounds like we had somewhat similar reactions to it. I liked it…I tend to like everything. ;)

      You and I aren’t the only ones wondering about Keith Nash, I know.

      • Bootsdaddy Says:

        Yeah, the Keith Nash reference is why I’m here. I used to party with a guy named Keith Nash. I know he got a kick out of it if he saw the movie

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Bootsdaddy!

        In some cases, I know that production companies pay people to license their names for characters. Let’s say that they want to name the character in this movie. They find somebody with a name they like, and pay them something (let’s say $25) to use their name. That way, if somebody else with the same name says that the studio defamed them, they can say, “Oh, that’s not you…it’s another Keith Nash, and we have a release.” So, maybe your friend inspired the name for the character! :)

  9. Bea Cox Says:

    I thought Paul was the most fun I’ve had in a bathtub without water.
    Seriously, I’m not a nerd so I just rented it again right away, kicked back and picked up on a few more of the references, like the music in the cowboy bar. I finally found a movie when farts are funny. I plan on watching it again. And again. That Keith Nash reference, that threw me, I was sure he was a Sombody.

  10. jason Says:

    Couldn’t u guy be thinking of Heath Nash. A south african designer

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jason!

      No, they say it very clearly…and Keith Nash is the name in the credits. Thanks for the suggestion, though!

      • ani Says:

        Hi, I’m Ani from Indonesia… Like Aag, I was brought to this page cause I try to find out about Keith Nash… I enjoyed watching Paul, my son and my nephews also enjoyed it.. Two days ago was our 3rd times watching it.. And I think we would love to see it again… :)

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, ani!

        I’m glad you enjoyed it! I know many people liked it more than I did, and I think it’s great that it makes people happy. :)

  11. sahaja Says:

    I am not a big fan of all science fiction movies but really enjoyed Paul. I have watched it many times and have seen something new every time I have. For instance, who is the reflection of in Paul’s right eye when he fixes Ruth’s eye in the RV? To me it looked like the Mona Lisa but who knows. Anyone who thinks a ton of research didn’t go into this movie is asleep at the wheel and there was a reference one way or the other to so many movies, I lost count. I would love to see a followup Paul II movie but doubt Simon & Nick will do one. I do see the movie on cable TV a lot but I know it didn’t do all that well as a movie which is a shame. Anyway, a truly enjoyable movie with wonderful characters and I would recommend it to anyone.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, sahaja!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the movie. I’m not sure how much research was done: I’d be reasonably sure that Pegg & Frost knew the references without researching them. :)

      They don’t tend to do sequels, which I think is a good thing…they’ve done some marvelously original work. I’d have to go back to look at that sequence, and maybe I will watch the movie again at some point.

  12. Mrs. Leigh Anne Dear Says:

    Having just watched Paul on cable TV I had to look up the Keith Nash reference which led me to this site. Everyone’s comments are relevant and good but in the end when all ballots are tallied it comes down to how many liked the movie so I’ll advertise herein my ‘Big thumbs up’ . I’ve been reading Science Fiction for 45 years and this movie falls into the ‘Bud Light’ enjoyment category – a fine movie compendium categorization which includes such well produced, well scripted, and well acted priors as: Evolution; Galaxy Quest, and Bubba Hotep.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mrs. Dear!

      Again, I’m glad that you liked it. I liked Galaxy Quest and Bubba Hotep…and Evolution is on my list to see at some point. :)

  13. vivian Says:

    about the Keith Nash myth, my first impression was he might be some famous or to-be famous science fiction writer, or in the future will be….

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, vivian!

      I would likely know the name “Keith Nash” if it was a famous author…but I like your suggestion of prescience. :)

  14. Clay Says:

    The Keith Nash thing was also what brought me here. I’ve figured out every other reference in the movie except that. Despite that interview, I think Simon really likes to screw with people and the Keith Nash thing was the one thing he wanted people to do some actual research for. I’m gonna look into the aforementioned comment about the alien codename and let you guys know what I find. Also, I just got done watching it, and I’m gonna watch it one more time, having read the comment about the Mona Lisa being reflected in Paul’s eye. I thought I’d noticed everything. :3
    Also, since everyone is doing it, I’d like to just say I love this movie. It’s like catnip for someone as geeky as me. There’s even a part at the end where Clive is wearing shorts with some Elvish on it, and I about lost my mind when I read what it said. These guys are just wonderful. I was really stoked to see them get out all their geek into one movie.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Clay!

      I’m glad you loved the movie…I’m not sure geekiness is the measure of that, but I’m always happy to see people like something. :)

      We can both look forward to The World’s End this year. :)

  15. Chris Says:

    well Paul is a stoner, maybe he likes the name cuz it sounds like Kief and Hash. I assume Simon Pegg is a stoner, just like people calling marijuana, mary- jane or mj. Him and his friends might call Kief and Hash, Kieth Nash.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Chris!

      Well, it’s an interesting hypothesis…I can see how rhyming slang could play into it.

  16. Shuli Sampson Says:

    I think the reference of “Keith Nash” is respect to the character in the movie “highlander” called Russell Nash, also known as Conner Mcloud.
    Nash was an immortal by default and an antiques dealer by choice. He collected things along the way, but his pride and joy was a samurai sword, bit like the one that Frost bought. I’m of a similar age to Pegg n Frost and I appreciated every “egg” relevance.
    I hope I may have “cracked” this one!!!
    I’ll never know. X

  17. Andy Charles Says:

    Regarding Keith Nash – my guess is they picked a name with no connections, made a point of emphasising it in the film, then sat back, waited, and pissed themselves as we tried to work out who or what the Keith Nash reference is about. Well, thats what I would have done…

  18. tisheh Says:

    i am that who i am…

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