Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America's UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever.For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart aleck decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town—a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents (one of whom is Jason Bateman) and the fanatical father of a young woman whom they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little grey man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes.
Anal Probing: Clive, suspicious of Paul after he and Graeme first find him and take Paul along in their RV, asks Graeme, "What if we wake up and find him inserting a probe into our anus?"
Paul: Why does everyone always assume that?! ... How much can I learn from an ass?!
On Twitter, Simon Pegg mentioned that they did consider doing a joke about anal probing and repressed memories (of sexual abuse), but they ditched it because a) they couldn't find a punchline, and b) they felt that it might actually be true and not funny.
Turns out those two rednecks are deathly afraid of homosexuality, and in their opinion, anal probing counts as such.
Artistic License - Religion: Paul claims (and the film takes it as a given) that his existence disproves the concept of the "traditional, Abrahamic God." While there are fundamentalists who agree with this, many religious people could tell you that "religion and aliens are mutually exclusive" is not even close to a universally accepted idea.
Author Appeal: Nick Frost and the American South. Much of the film's Southern elements came from his interest in the area.
Back from the Dead: Paul brings a dead bird back to life...then promptly eats it, citing his unwillingness to eat a dead bird. Occurs later in the film when he saves Graeme from a fatal gunshot wound to a heart - and technically, himself as well.
Badass Grandma: Sigourney Weaver as The Big Guy, who effortlessly and simultaneously manhandles Grame and Clive by herself unarmed without breaking a sweat.
Bi the Way: Paul casually drops that everyone on his planet is bisexual. It's a pleasure thing, according to him. Word of God has it that he was originally going to go off on a big rant about humans and their sexual hangups at this point in the film, similar to the one he want on regarding creationism. In the end they decided it was more in keeping with Paul's character to have him treat it as no big deal.
Book Ends: The movie begins and ends at the San Diego ComicCon, first as attendees, then as invited guests.
Brick Joke: When Paul first meets Clive and Graeme, Clive faints and Graeme assumes Paul made it happen somehow, but Paul assures him he didn't. Later, when Ruth meets Paul the first time and faints:
Graeme: "What'd you do that for?"
Paul: "She fainted! We've been over this!"
"You'll know it when you see it." It immediately cuts to a ratty looking trailer park, with Paul saying that looks like a good place to stop, making you think this is the answer to the question. It turns out later he meant Devil's Tower.
Clive mentions having had sex with someone dressed as an Ewok. Said Ewok shows up at the end.
Comedic Sociopathy: Paul, usually, ranging from reviving (then eating) a dead bird to scaring the Christ out of rednecks.
Contrived Coincidence: The gang runs into a pair of scary hillbillies in Rachel, NV, and then runs into the exact same scary hillbillies a couple of days later hundreds of miles away at a bar in Wyoming. Then Ruth meets her father at the same bar.
Actually, if you pay close attention, you see the pickup truck pass by our heroes.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: You might think that Haggard and O'Reilly are just a couple of mooks working for the Big Guy, but they're not federal agents for nothing. Haggard is really on the ball, suspecting there's more to Zoil than he's letting on, and follows his trail after tapping into his own communications with the Big Guy.
The Conspiracy: Subverted that, in the end, the real conspiracy is Zoil is actually trying to help Paul escape from the Big Guy all along.
When Graeme first meets Ruth, he tells her, "You might want to push the tissues off the bed with a pen. I have a slight cold." He doesn't look or sound sick at all, so he's probably using the tissues for something else.
Easy Evangelism: A few minutes with Graeme (and a handy mind meld) are enough to break Ruth out of her Bible-thumping fundamentalism.
Somewhat subverted, as she is clearly shocked and frightened by the sudden collapse of her entire worldview, temporarily BSODing.
Elvis Lives: Inverted. Paul claims his government-supplied pot is so strong that it killed Bob Dylan. The others point out that Dylan isn't dead, but Paul implies otherwise.
Every Car Is a Pinto: One of the agents chasing the group accidentally drives off a cliff. Paul remarks that he could still be all right... And then it explodes.
Even Nerds Have Standards: One of the goofy, nerdy Agents, upon seeing a drawing of an alien chick with three breasts in their first meeting with Graeme and Clive, suggest that they draw one with "four tits". Graeme's response is "...that's sick."
Gilded Cage: Paul spent the last 60 years or so in one. He apparently didn't even realize he was a prisoner and thought he was a guest, until the Big Guy decided that Paul had outlived his usefulness and wanted to harvest his brain for stem cells.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Ruth, coming from an ultra-religious background, takes a bit of time to learn how to curse properly.
Ruth: Well, ain't that a bag of tits.
Groin Attack: Ruth knees a hillbilly in the crotch. The kid in a karate gi that Paul befriends also does this.
Heroic RROD: Everything cool Paul does harms him somehow - his Exposition Beam makes him exhausted, he needs to hold his breath to use his invisibility which he finds difficult since he's a smoker, and his Healing Hands transfer the damage onto him, depending on the size of the victim.
Heroic Sacrifice: Paul's gamble to heal Graeme, which had been toted as incredibly risky and likely to kill him. Subverted in that he ends up managing to live through it.
It would have been more ironic had Pegg and Frost's original casting choice, Yeardley Smith been playing the Big Bad in question note The character's code name is "The Big Guy". Yeardley Smith is actually quite short.
I Should Write a Book About This: Clive and Graeme eventually write about their experience with Paul. On a lesser note, Graeme constantly sketches Paul throughout their trip.
I Take Offense to That Last One: While being chased by what they believe are the hicks, Gus and Jake Clive worries that their assailants will "...rape us and break our arms!" Graeme whimpers that he doesn't "want (his) arms broken!"
Paul is repeatedly described as being a Nice Guy but "incredibly rude."
So is Agent Zoil.
Kick the Dog: Agent Haggard. He doesn't seem like much of a villain at first, especially being played by Bill Hader, and the audience would probably assume that both members of the wacky agent duo would either end up helping Paul in the end or would meet harmless comedic fates. This changes when we see Haggard (apparently) killing Ruth's father in cold blood.
The Men in Black: Big Guy's men. Somewhat subverted in that two of them have no idea what's going on. Used as a plot point - when they figure it out, they think they're going to finally get promoted and start taking harsher methods that are more in line with villainous depictions of this trope.
Mission from God: Ruth's father claims this when Haggard tries to get him to back off from the pursuit.
Grahame and Clive, being nerds, aren't good at socializing with non-nerds. "Oh no! People!"
Not-So-Harmless Villain: Agent Haggard at first appears to just be one half of a bumbling buddy cop duo and not particularly malicious or threatening. After the house explosion, however, he steals Zoil's car, apparently murders Ruth's father, and doggedly tries to kill the RV passengers in a chase scene.
Not Quite Dead: O'Reilly is caught in the explosion when Tara's house blows up, but the credits epilogue shows him at Comic-Con, still alive. He's horribly burned and wearing a Phantom Of The Opera-type mask.
One of Us: Writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are huge nerds, and this is their love letter to the "alien encounter" sub-genre of sci-fi.
The finale contains many references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, including Devil's Tower, shots of people standing around and going into the spaceship, and the "Five Tones" summoning the ship. Earlier, the Five Tones play at the fireworks store.
Tempting Fate: the statement "I doubt we'll ever see those guys again!" just ensures that 'those guys' show up at a random bar to delay our heroes as the feds are closing in. They also give one of the agents final confirmation that they're really chasing an alien.
Those Two Bad Guys: Haggard and O'Reilly, after suspicions of Zoil keeping them out of the loop are proven true. Before that they're just...
Those Two Guys: ...along with those two recurring rednecks, though they're given far less screen time.
And so she could blend in easily after it's healed. It helps in throwing off Zoil, who even knows about Paul's healing power.
Vertigo Effect: Used just before O'Reilly fires his gun in the farmhouse.
Would Hit a Girl: Graeme punches the Big Guy, actually a woman, in the face; it's hilariously ineffective and she quickly shows she's much more badass than he is but Graeme certainly doesn't lose any audience sympathy for at least trying to deck her.