Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Paul Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Cheerfully dumb sci-fi comedy has sex, drug humor.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 80 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

On the surface, the movie seems to celebrate iffy behavior. But at the same time, several human heroes do learn empathy and tolerance toward the alien visitor. Ultimately, this is one of those stories in which a laid-back character attempts to loosen up an uptight, repressed character (or, in this case, two uptight repressed characters).

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main (human) characters are two well-meaning nerdy types with very little life experience. The alien loosens them up, and they engage in plenty of questionable behavior, but they also eventually work hard and risk their lives to solve the alien's problem. Some jokes are made at other groups' expense.


Fantasy violence includes some comic fighting (including a bar fight) and some shooting, with gunshot wounds. There are also some threatening characters, an image of the alien eating a bird, and the suggestion of a hurt dog.


A nearly constant stream of sexual innuendo, mostly for humorous effect. At a comic convention, the main characters check out several sexy "Princess Leias" (in costume). A drawing of an alien girl with three breasts is referenced several times. A shot of the alien's naked buttocks.


Near-constant use of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "p---y," "c--k," "c--ksucker," "ass," "son of a bitch," "hell," "t-ts," "pee," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "butt," "d--k," "prick," "damn," "crap," "goddamn," and an image of a raised middle finger.


A mention of Reese's Pieces in reference to E.T. Since the movie begins at a comic book convention, there's also a stream of various references to comic books and other sci-fi stuff.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The alien smokes both cigarettes and pot; he shares his pot with one character, but it proves too strong, and she passes out. The main characters also drink beer and get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this sci-fi comedy from the director of Superbad isn't quite as raunchy as the hit teen comedy, though characters swear constantly (including many uses of "f--k" and "s--t") and exchange incessant sexual innuendoes. The main characters are generally well-meaning people, but the movie celebrates iffy behavior -- from pot smoking to getting drunk to making fun of other people. There's also some mild violence, including a comical bar fight and a sci-fi shootout that's played for laughs. While younger teens might be drawn in by the movie's story and themes, its content isn't age appropriate for them.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMaxwell Stentiford March 27, 2015

Disappointing extremely rude comedy.

This movie is very very rude. The characters, literally, use f--k in every sentence. There is way too many sex references for no reason. The language in this mo... Continue reading
Adult Written byEmma P. February 16, 2018

Good movie!

It's a very funny movie with an interesting plot.
In Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) its age rating is 11 years +. As with everything with Seth R... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 3, 2019

Absolute great movie, suitable for 9 and up.

A great movie for the family. I think that because of the swearing and stuff parents are biased as their kids will probably know not to repeat by the age of 6!... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 23, 2019

Quite sweary for younger kids, not very much gore. WARNING: SPOILERS

A fair amount of swearing, drugs and sex references( but nothing kids year 4 and above won’t hear every day.) Unlike other Simon Pegg films there is a surprisin... Continue reading

What's the story?

Visiting the United States for the first time, Brits Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost) are on a geek tour of comic book conventions and alien landing sites. While on the road, they crash their Winnebago into a car and meet the laid-back Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), an escaped alien. If Paul doesn't meet his ship by a certain time, U.S. agents will certainly kill him -- so the two nerds must break out of their comfort zone to help. Along the way, they "kidnap" Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig), who works at a trailer park, and any number of threatening characters, secret agents, and oddballs join in the chase. Can Paul make it in time?

Is it any good?

Pegg and Frost wrote PAUL's screenplay, and after the sharpness of their first two outings -- Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz -- it feels a bit soft and sludgy, like it was deliberately dumbed down. Likewise, director Greg Mottola, whose previous movies Superbad and Adventureland were examples of emotional maturity combined with comic depravity, doesn't quite reach the level of his earlier work.

But Paul has a genuine sweetness and a relaxed quality that eventually works, even though it doesn't quite live up to its potential. The "shock" humor slowly smoothes itself out and meshes into the laid-back quality of the story, helped by the sheer presence of the cast. (Sigourney Weaver provides some memorable bite, as well as a bit of sci-fi history, as a mysterious government figure.) It could have been quite a bit more, but at least it's charming.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the alien, Paul. It seems like he understands the secret of life, but he also smokes cigarettes and pot, drinks, swears, and behaves badly. What kind of a role model is he? Do you think we're meant to see him positively or negatively?

  • Do you consider this kind of comedy "over the top"? Why? What other movies and TV shows have a similar comedy style? Do you think there's danger here if a viewer doesn't understand the comedy on that level?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi and comedy

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