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    Movie Review: Paul Is Funny, Chatty Fanboy Porn

    Paul Universal Studios

    Review in a Hurry: With Kevin Smith apparently retiring from directing soon, there's opportunity afoot for somebody new to start making R-rated comedies full of Star Wars conversations and pot smoking. Enter, inevitably, Comic-Con faves Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, playing Comic-Con attendees who run into a foul-mouthed-yet-sweet-natured alien (voice of Seth Rogen).

    Like everything they do, it's an agreeable comedy that is likely to be overinflated to masterpiece status by fanboys.

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    The Bigger Picture: Pegg and Frost generally work with director Edgar Wright, but just as he branched out to do Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, so too have they, with Greg Mottola (Superbad) taking the reins on their screenplay this time around.

    Still, this isn't a big departure. The duo came to geek-fame based on the Brit-com Spaced, which gained a cult following stateside largely thanks to the fact that it constantly dropped humorous references to American pop-culture. The subsequent movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz similarly riffed on the American zombie and action genres, transposing them to uniquely British settings for amusing (if overrated) effect.

    Paul plays on their established personas and banter, with the guys playing, respectively, an aspiring English sci-fi novelist (Frost) and artist (Pegg) on a vacation at the San Diego Comic-Con, and a subsequent road-trip to various UFO-related sites.

    Plans get sidetracked when they encounter Paul, your stereotypical "gray" alien, who has broken out of a government facility and is looking to get off-world. The twist here is that he's voiced by Seth Rogen and behaves more like a fratboy than a first contact, prone to swearing, smoking (tobacco and other things), mooning, and drinking beer. Aside from that, he's a pretty nice guy who has secretly been helping the government for years...but having learned all they can, the feds now want to dissect him.

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    The plot, such as it is, is your basic chase film, with incompetent agents played by Bill Hader, Jo Lo Truglio, and Jason Bateman hot on their trail.

    What elevates this material to fanboy porn is the dialogue, which constantly appropriates signature lines from Star Wars, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters...even (huh?) Lorenzo's Oil.

    There are visual and audio references as well, from a country bar where the band plays a bluegrass version of the Star Wars cantina theme, to some clever stunt-casting, and an oversized UFO that recalls the opening gag of Spaceballs. Thankfully, these aren't just pop-culture checklists for their own sake, a la Disaster Movie, but given their own spin. Fans will laugh knowingly, while newbies won't find any of it gets in the way of enjoying the story.

    Pegg and Frost seem like fun guys to hang out with, which is their primary appeal...but they could stand to challenge themselves more. Outside of their comfort zone, they've shown greater promise as actors: Frost in Kinky Boots, and Pegg in Star Trek.

    The 180—a Second Opinion: Considering the generally light tone, some sudden secondary-character deaths feel jarring and out of place.

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