Graeme: What's the matter, Clive?
Clive: There's an alien in the kitchenette making bagels and coffee!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.
This work contains examples of:
- Adorkable: Graeme and Clive.
- Affectionate Parody: Of every alien contact movie ever. Simultaneously. There's also a loving take on conventions and nerddom in general.
- Alien Autopsy: It's what Big Guy wants to do to Paul.
- In the Unrated version there's a fake one at ComicCon.
- Aliens Speaking English: Lampshaded and mocked when Graeme asks Paul if he has some sort of magic translation thing going on.
Paul: Actually, I'm speaking English, you fucking idiot.
- Also, justified, in that Paul has been living here for 60 years or so, more than enough time to learn to speak English fluently.
- Amazing Freaking Grace: Ruth when she first finds out about Paul.
- Amusing Alien: Paul.
- 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 "Abrahamic Judeo-Christian 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.
- Audible Sharpness: The sword that Clive tries out at Comic Con.
- 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.
- Big Bad: The Big Guy.
- 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.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Clive wets himself upon first sight of Paul.
- Call Back: "I changed my mind. That is Jenga."
- The Cameo: Steven Spielberg As Himself (well, his voice anyway).
- The Cast Show Off: Say, did you know that Sigourney Weaver is a Black-Belt in Goju-Ryu Karate? You'll get to see her prove it by beating the living daylights of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Subverted with Clive's sword. It breaks when he tries to use it on the Big Guy.
- Played straight to a lesser extent with the sketch Graeme does of Paul.
- Chekhov's Skill:
- All of Paul's special powers come in handy, even the "transfers grievous wounds" thing.
- Also, to a lesser extent, Graeme and Clive being able to speak Klingon. Near the end, Clive uses it to tell Graeme to punch the unsuspecting Big Guy.
- Cluster F-Bomb: All over the place. There's an actual Running Gag that Ruth swears a lot.
- 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.
- Curse Cut Short: "Ain't this a b- *gets crushed by landing alien ship*
- A Date with Rosie Palms:
- An otherwise throwaway line from Jane Lynch:
Clive: The Robot's Mistress?
Pat: I prefer romances.
Clive: That's kind of a romance.
Pat: Between a woman and a machine?
Clive: Um, yeah.
- 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Paul, almost constantly.
- Determinator: Ruth's dad.
Paul: This guy doesn't quit! You almost kind of have to respect it.
- Disney Death: Graeme, and then Paul, a few moments later.
- Distant Prologue: A brief opener shows Paul's ship crashing on Earth in 1947, before we cut to the present day.
- The Dragon: Agent Zoil comes off as this, until we find out he's helping Paul return home.
- Dramatic Alien VTOL: Of course.
- Paul even lampshades this, apologizing for the spaceship's awkwardly slow ascent.
- Subverted by the very sudden arrival of the ship.
- Dreamworks Face: One of the posters. Sure, Paul is supposed to be a smart Amusing Alien, but come on.
- Drives Like Crazy: "Small corrections! Small corrections!"
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: The Big Guy is killed off rather anti-climatically for comedy.
- 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.
- Averted with Ruth's father, who sees the alien he had previously called a demon healing Graeme and responds with "the Lord has delivered His healing hand".
- 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."
- Exotic Equipment: "Hey, on my planet, this is small!"
- Exposition Beam: Paul can zap people with knowledge of the universe.
- Fiction as Cover-Up: Inverted. According to Paul, the government commissioned movies about aliens in order to prepare society for First Contact, not to make them skeptical. He was responsible for, among others, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET The Extra Terrestrial, and The X-Files.
- The Foreign Subtitle: The Chinese title of the film translates to "We Hit an Alien!"
- The Fundamentalist: Ruth, initially. She freaks out at Paul even after he explains that his existence "only disproves... one world theologies". Her dad is even worse.
- Furry Fandom: Clive mentions that the last time he had sex before meeting Paul was with a woman cosplaying as an Ewok.
Paul: "Clive likes boning space bears!"
Clive: Shut up!
Paul: No seriously, be honest with me. What was it like?
Clive: Well... she was furry nice.
- Gender-Blender Name: The Big "Guy" is actually a woman.
- Genre Savvy: Paul. Justified in that he came up with most of the genre's conventions.
- Good All Along: Agent Zoil.
- 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.
- Healing Hands: Paul.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend/Mistaken for Gay: Graeme and Clive. Repeatedly. Paul later confirms Clive is jealous of Graeme's new relationship with Ruth.
- 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.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mentioned through the whole movie. Even the alien, Paul mentions it at one point.
- Historical In-Joke: Paul is responsible for many of recent history's sci-fi plotlines.
- Hug and Comment: "Clive, I can feel your boner."
- I Resemble That Remark: Happens to Clive, right after choking Paul.
Paul: ...so in case our species do meet, you won't have a fucking spaz attack!
Clive: I DO NOT HAVE A FUCKING SPAZ ATTACK! *starts choking Paul, again*
- It helps to know that calling someone a "spaz" in England is equivalent to calling someone a "retard" in North America.
- I Ate WHAT?: Agent Zoil tastes Clive's urine (he wasn't sure it was urine before tasting though...)
- If Jesus Then Aliens: Averted with Ruth, but played straight (for laughs) with her Father.
- Impairment Shot: Ruth after she wakes up after fainting when she sees Paul.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Zoil manages to incapacitate the whole of The Big Guy's entourage with non-lethal hits.
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- "Lorenzo Zoil" has to win some kind of award for sheer lameness.
- Clive claims his last sexual encounter, with a girl dressed as an Ewok, was "furry nice".
- The "Encounter Briefs" comic books count as well.
- Improvised Weapon: The clock that Graeme hits Agent Haggard with.
- Invisibility: Paul, but only if he holds his breath. Fails on him several times due to this.
Paul: I gotta stop smoking!
- Invisible Streaker: Paul.
- Irony: Paul is a man from the stars with a Biblical name who heals the sick. He's hunted by crazed Bible thumpers.
- An alien sci-fi flick, and the Big Bad is played by none other than Sigourney Weaver
- It would have been more ironic had Pegg and Frost's original casting choice, Yeardley Smith been playing the Big Bad in question note
- 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!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- 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.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: The Big Guy.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: Paul. From what we hear of his language, it's probably just as well.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: At the end of the film, Graeme and Clive become award-winning authors by publishing their adventure with Paul.
- Magic and Powers: Paul is psychic, though his abilities are limited to a touch-range Exposition Beam, invisibility while holding his breath, and Healing Hands that temporarily damages him proportionally to the wound.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Graeme's response to being perforated by a shotgun is to lament that the resulting damage has ruined his favorite shirt.
- Man Child: Zoil calls O'Reilly out for being one, and generally looks down on the nerds and the agents he's saddled with.
- Meaningful Echo:
- "Sometimes you just gotta roll the dice."
- "That's Jenga."
- 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.
- Mistaken for Gay: A Running Gag throughout the film, from the hotel employee providing room service to Paul himself. It's not entirely unwarranted.
- Mook Promotion: Haggard and O'Reilly (well, mostly Haggard) seek one by capturing Paul before Zoil can.
- Most Writers Are Writers: Clive is a sci-fi writer. Graeme is his illustrator.
- Multi Boobage: Graeme's comic cover has a three-breasted Green-Skinned Space Babe. Awesome.
- Mushroom Samba: Ruth takes a hit of some rather strong pot. "There are wasps in my brain!"
- Nerds Are Virgins: Averted in that we find out that Clive at least has had sex (albeit with a woman dressed as an Ewok).
- when Ruth grabs Clive's crotch, her expression when she removes her hand implies that his ..... attention span .... is quite short
- Nice Guy: Paul. He's a bit sharp-tongued and crude, but otherwise a decent person... er, alien.
- No Social Skills: Ruth, due to being raised by her fundamentalist father all her life.
- 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.
- Overprotective Dad: Ruth's papa.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: Justified, the RV took a bullet in its radiator just before the protagonists flee the farm house.
- Pocket Protector: Papa Buggs is saved by his Bullet Proof Bible.
- Preacher's Kid: Post-exposition-beam Ruth acts what she thinks is bad quite vigorously. The other characters coach her in the finer points of swearing.
- Precision F-Strike: Ruth fails to deliver one, but when Zoil runs out of bullets, he levels a small city.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Subverted. Haggard's line to Ruth's dad could count as this except he doesn't die.
"I'm on a mission from God!"
"Tell him you failed."
- Punny Name: Lorenzo Zoil.
- Religious Stereotype: Ruth and her dad. Ruth experiences Easy Evangelism via psychic powers, while her dad decides that the main group isn't so bad after Paul revives Graeme.
- Reverse Mole: Paul has "someone still on the inside". It's Zoil.
- Road Trip Plot: WITH ALIENS!
- Running Gag:
- "Three tits! ...Awesome!"
- "Who the hell is Adam Shadowchild?" Followed by naming three different titles he's written, every time.
- This also happens three times, and once each time one of the books is "Jenny Starpepper and the [something]". Word of God, however, states that there are in fact four Jenny Starpepper books.
- Graeme and Clive being Mistaken for Gay.
- People fainting when they meet Paul for the first time.
- "You can't WIN with these people."
- Separated by a Common Language
Graeme: It's in the car park.
Clive: I think you mean the parking lot.
Graeme: [cowboy voice] Ah sure do! [laughter]
- Serkis Folk: Paul. Most of the stand-in work was done by Joe Lo Truglio, who also plays Agent O'Reilly. Seth Rogen also did some motion capture work during pre-production.
- Short Range Shotgun: Averted, as Graeme is the only one hit by Pappa Buggs' shotgun, even though they were standing in a group. The shot even hits in a tight cluster on his shirt.
- Shout-Out: This movie is practically made of this trope. Think of an alien movie, it's probably in here. In terms of sheer density of nerd references, it's basically Spaced: The Movie.
- For starters: Clive is implied to have a dog called Boomer. Interestingly, while in Independence Day Boomer survives everything, the first scenes of Paul shows more cruelty towards pets.
- Who has guns in England? "...farmers."
- Zoil calls Paul "Short Round". The warehouse Paul spends much of his time in looks suspiciously where the Ark of the Covenant was stored in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the site of the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
- 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.
- "Boring conversation anyway."
- The scene in the redneck bar has a live band performing the Cantina theme from Episode IV.
- Grahm and Clive visit Kirk's Rock and reenact the scene.
- They also play virtual reality Prototype at San Diego ComicCon.
- "Get away from her, you BITCH!", said to Sigourney Weaver.
- "Smile, you son of a bitch!"
- Paul's "healing hands" transfer if the chest wound references the glowing red dot in ET's near-death experience
- "I'm on a mission from God!"
- Paul puts his palms together and rubs before healing.
- "Where we're going, you won't need teeth."
- Paul also wanted some Reese's Pieces. Hell, Paul himself came up with the idea for ET.
- Three-breasted space babe, you say? Also could be a shoutout to Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon VI
- The Big Guy refers to Paul as "Mork'' at one point. He doesn't like it.
- Paul jokingly addresses Clive and Graeme as "Rocky and Bullwinkle" after the Bar Brawl.
- "I've dreamed of this since I was twelve, when I first saw Mac and Me."
- Graeme at one point is wearing an Invincible t-shirt, and later in the comic shop you can clearly see an Invincible comic behind the boy.
- Especially funny because not only is Invincible more geeky and non-mainstream comic than many with wider recognition, but he is also a Human Alien.
- Graeme wears a Flash t-shirt at the beginning of the movie and much of the rest an Empire Strikes Back t-shirt.
- At one point in the comic shop you can see a rack full of Scott Pilgrim books. Had Edgar Wright not directed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, he would have directed Paul. In addition, Simon Pegg is said to be a fan of Brian Lee O'Malley.
- At the same comic book shop, you can see an issue of "The Boys", a comic book by Garth Ennis, which has a character based on Simon Pegg, who also wrote the introduction of said comic's first issue.
- When Paul "dies", he looks just like the alien in the infamous "alien autopsy" video.
- Using fireworks to signal to an alien space ship
- Are you going to draw me like one of your French girls, Jack?
- Graeme says, "Oh my..." when he's shot. These were Captain Kirk's final words.
- Roadside dives along the journey named Gerties and Roy's.
- The Spot of Tea line is likely a reference to the infamous Beadle's About prank, where a British housewife uttered this phrase when confronted with an "alien" for the first time.
- An alien meets a little girl, then years later meets her again as a grown woman, then takes her away with him.
- Significant Sketchbook: Being an illustrator, Graeme does several sketches along the way, including one of Paul Flipping the Bird.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Ruth becomes a very awkward and over-the-top example of this once she sheds her anal-retentive religious nature.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Adam Shadowchild is a parody of several sci-fi writers/artists who display that trait. He's clearly quite full of himself, but no one who isn't a total geek has ever heard of him.
- Starring Special Effects
- Stern Chase: Lampshaded, too!
- Stock Scream: A Wilhelm Scream as Bill Hader drives off a cliff.
- The Stoner: Paul. Ruth attempts to be one and... fails.
- She goes through half a dozen clichéd reactions to smoking pot, ending by passing out, within 30 seconds of her first hit. Stoners Are Funny.
- Tara says "My weed!" as her house blows up.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Both Those Two Guys and Ruth's father have a police radio scanner that they use to eavesdrop on Zoil.
- 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.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Ruth's blind eye pretty much only existed so that Paul could fix it with magic.
- 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.
- Visual Pun: Graeme clocks Haggard with a clock
- 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.