Paul is an alien with a potty mouth and a penchant for pot, so it's no surprise (a no-brainer, really) that he's voiced by Seth Rogen, he of the growly yet jolly voice and slacker comedy-filled CV. Still, those character flaws aside, Paul is a rather benign being compared to fellow extraterrestrial Roger, the extremely foul-mouthed, omni-sexual alcoholic from the animated TV series, American Dad.
And while the two extraterrestrials may belong to the same species given their physical similarities, Paul's time in captivity (60 years following his crash landing in New Mexico) hasn't left him as embittered as Roger. But now that the US government wants to harvest his brain for its telekinetic and healing powers, Paul's decided its time he phoned and returned home.
It's during the early stages of his escape that he encounters Graeme (Simon Pegg) and Clive (Nick Frost), two English sci-fi geeks fresh from Comic-Con and making a pilgrimage to various US UFO hot spots. Despite their initial reticence, the two become Paul's travel companions and agents of his escape; fully grown if not entirely grown up Elliot's to Paul's E.T.
They're soon hotly pursued by government agents, the determined Zoil (Jason Bateman) and the bumbling Haggard (Bill Hadar) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), as well as the Bible-bashing, gun-toting camper van park owner, Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch). He's on their trail following his daughter Ruth's (Kristen Wiig) inadvertent kidnapping by the trio following her discovery of Paul.
Paul is only too happy to disavow Ruth of her extreme Christian beliefs (including intelligent design and that the Earth is a mere 4000 years old), and her newfound freedom sees her taking to cussing like a duck to water, albeit one with L-plates, and eager to explore her sexuality, something the besotted Graeme is only to happy to assist with.
One of the joys to be had with Paul – and there are many, however minor, particularly if you are a fan of alien films – is its brazen (given it's Hollywood-backed) disrespect for Christian fundamentalism. The so-called fly over states of middle America may be left unimpressed, but you have to have balls (and it probably helps to be English) to dump on your potential audience's belief system.
Then again, director Greg Mottola (whose previous film was Adventureland), and writers, Pegg and Frost, also have a lot of fun at the expense of their target audience: fellow sci-fi and comic book geeks. But I doubt they'll be up in arms; Paul references so many alien encounter films, from Alien to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. (Steven Spielberg literally phones-in a cameo), that they'll be more chuffed than miffed.
As a close encounter of the nerd kind, Paul doesn't even come close to the greatness of any of those aforementioned films but then I doubt that was the intent. As an alien-buddy-road movie, Paul is more than agreeable company; you're funny bone will be tickled if not completely probed.