A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: March 18, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: August 9, 2011
- Cast: Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Simon Pegg
- Director: Greg Mottola
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including sexual references, and some drug use
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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