Review: Paul (Greg Mottola, 2011)

With J.J. Abrams' "Super 8" on the way, 2011 could become the year of the classic alien film's return. Or, considering Greg Mottola's "Paul", it could at least be the year of classic alien throwbacks through which we clearly recall how our first "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" felt, or how a wrinkly, brown "E.T." with a Reese's Pieces addiction abducted our hearts. Of course, both mentioned classics come to us by way of Steven Spielberg. According to a "Paul" scene I won't spoil, that's no mere coincidence.

Following two British ├╝ber-nerds ("Spaced" pair Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, "spaced" anew) on a post-Comic Con road trip who chance upon an otherworldly yet pop culture-savvy fugitive with a penchant for ELO, "Paul" builds its occasionally abrupt but nevertheless successful plot points around our vivid memories of the five tones at Devils Tower, E.T.'s abandonment and the like. Interwoven are allusions to Spielberg-produced fare such as "Back to the Future" and "Men in Black" alongside proudly geeky references to "Blade", "Flash Gordon", Stars both "Trek" and "Wars" and several comic books, primarily those of Robert Kirkman ("Invincible", "Brit", etcetera). There's even a "Duel" plug in there if you keep your eyes peeled. "Paul", however, is more than a nerd-service parody of Hollywood's indelible extra-terrestrials; it is a commemoration of them that mounts humorous and endearing originality atop their achievements.

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