The Movie: Paul, like a misfit, sugar-fueled child, requires patience and tolerance to love. The first time around I kind of hated it. I’ve since rewatched it and am willing to chalk that sour reaction up to two things: disappointment that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost hadn’t written a smarter script, sadness at how blatantly the whole thing tried to stroke the geek crowd with every Comic-Con friendly reference under the sun. It felt broad and obvious and safe: three things you absolutely don’t want to associate with an R-rated comedy.
It took a second watch to be able to put up with its hectic, geek-baiting crowd and find the narrower, more intimate story about two grown men who, for a change, don’t act like man-children just because they still love the things they loved as kids. In that regard, Paul actually works quite well. Pegg and Frost don’t play it juvenile, they play it with an honesty I admire. Unfortunately, the rest of the script is full of spot-the-reference, sitcom-level material that’s closer to NBC’s Chuck in its genuine geekiness than it is BBC’s Spaced.
Paul is not the miserable film I first thought, it’s just very fleeting and fruitless.
The Features: If a second watch isn’t enough to warm, though probably not endear, you to Paul, a commendable set of special features should help move things along. Multiple making-of featurettes focusing on everything from the shooting locations to the CGI evolution of Paul. The disc does sport a handful of fluffy, press kit type materials, but they’re compensated for by the thoroughness of the other behind-the-scenes goodies as well as the funny commentary track.
Buy It If: You absolutely must own every movie starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost no matter how uneven it is.
James Gunn’s Super, a film about an average Joe who decides to stop taking people’s shit and become a costumed hero, kind of got swept under the rug earlier this year, but hopefully it’ll find an audience on DVD.
The Movie: I would gladly watch a straight-up fantasy movie made by the Your Highness gents (Danny McBride, Ben Best and David Gordon Green). It’s gotten overshadowed by the not nearly as impressive “period fantasy stoner comedy” schtick, but there’s some very eye-catching and creative ideas that went into fleshing out this weird fantasy world. Unfortunately it’s all in service of that stoner comedy schtick and the whole movie suffers accordingly– and that’s coming from someone who actually thinks it’s funny.
But even if I don’t think the entire movie is a divinely inspired laugh riot, I do still love that this movie – a crude, R-rated comedy that’s got minotaur penis, centenial prophecies, and a ton of special effects – even exists. I love that Universal gambled on it, I love that David Gordon Green was able to convince legitimately talented (and usually serious) actors like Damian Lewis, Toby Jones and Charles Dance to sign up for this silliness, and I love that Natalie Portman comes across as positively giddy to play with the raunchy material.
The Features: “Damn You Gods: The Making of Your Highness” is my favorite special feature of the week purely because it contains a part where Toby Jones totally calls out James Franco by saying there’s no way he actually understands the high literature he’d read on set between takes. As with most improv-heavy comedies these days, the bulk of the special features revolve around the sheer abundance of material left on the cutting room floor, most of which is hit or miss content-wise, but made watchable thanks to its lovable cast.
Buy It If: You dig legit fantasy filmmaking (even if it is under the guise of comedy), tend to find Danny McBride funny, or are in love with Natalie Portman.