Saturday, March 19, 2011

Greg Mottola: Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind

The science-fiction satire is a precarious juggling act of the fantastic and the formulaic, not easily achieved, but pulled off with aplomb by the gifted Greg Mottola in his hilariously affecting Paul.

British funnymen Simon Pegg and Nick Frost renew their winning banter from Edgar Wright's smart alecky spoofs Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as two U.K. nerds who travel to the states for Comicon and to visit Area 51 and the like. They end up crossing paths with foul mouthed, chain smoking alien Paul, voiced by the ubiquitous Seth Rogen, who is on the run from poker faced government agent Jason Bateman and his wicked boss Sigourney Weaver.The way Mottola spins his yarn out of guffaws and heartstrings is consistently impressive, considering the pattern of soulless sludge churned out and labeled action/sci-fi/comedy by the studios.

Our cross country trip with these likable buffoons raises controversial questions about evolution and religion, and in that respect this subversively unconventional road movie is noteworthy. Though it loses steam towards the third act, its superb cast (including Kristen Wiig and Blythe Danner) and ballsy demeanor guarantee its place as a memorable studio gamble.

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