Despicable Me 3 ***

The thought of another Minions-packed film might have us parents running for the hills. Anyone who’s been subjected to (tortured by) the Minions Banana song by their offspring will be nodding in agreement right now. It takes a strong stomach to take the kids to Despicable Me 3.

Fear not though: Film number 3 is far less about the little yellow babbling creatures and more about ex-villain Gru and his family connections and choices. This is both a plus and a minus for the franchise.

Bad-turned-good Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) and wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig) have been fired from the Anti-Villain League (like the FBI) for reasons played out at the beginning. Meanwhile, the redundant Minions decide life with Gru is no longer fun and decide to go it alone. Wondering what to do next, Gru is contacted by his long-lost twin Dru (Carrell) who wants him to go back into the family business: villainy – something the latter needs help with. The plan is to steal a diamond that another baddie has locked away, 80s-loving supervillian Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). Can both brothers work together and resurrect the glory days?

Although writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have wisely tried another way of injecting a new lease of life into the Despicable Me saga with the brothers’ relationship and how that impacts on Gru’s family, the original fans of the films – the youngsters – do begin to question when they’ll be seeing more Minions action, which this film is light on. Granted, a prison break by the yellow menace satisfies for a short period, but any mini Minions nuts out there will be asking during the film when are their custard-coloured anti-heroes coming back onscreen next?

For the rest of us, there is enough to entertain you with, watching the family dynamics in play. Even though the makers have give adults a Minions respite by exploring this, the real fun comes from Bratt and his 80s obsessions, which allows those of us who remember those days first time around to indulge in 80s fever, bringing silly grins to faces at the campness of the decade and its fashions and music. It feels like a cheap laugh but it’s gratefully accepted. The rest of the film flies around at its usual colourful pace, without much else standing out.

Despicable Me 3 feels like the ‘third best’ in the saga – in all fairness, it’s just trying something new with the narrative and characters. If you like Gru and family then this will go down easily and effortlessly. If you actually ‘like’ Minions, you might be putting on a previous film when you get home to get your fill – as this reviewer did to placate a young (slightly disappointed) Minions fan.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Sausage Party ***

Sausage-Party

Emphasis on the word ‘sausage’ usually sparks juvenile sniggers from most grown-ups. Seth Rogen capitalizes on this in his raunchy new adult animation Sausage Party – the mere name triggering winks and nudges. This is a Pixar p*** take laced with Rogen’s preferred brand of stoner humour. Those not avid fans of the latter can still catch some laughs, but might tired long before the riotous finale of filthy food porn commences.

Rogen is Frank, a hotdog who is desperate to get inside Brenda the bun (voiced by Kristen Wiig) when they finally leave the supermarket and go home with one of the ‘gods’ (us humans). They need to be picked off the shelf and taken outside to ‘the great beyond’. But disaster strikes when one female god goes shopping, leading Frank and Brenda on a journey back to the shelf while trying to avoid enraged Douche (Nick Kroll).

However, Frank soon learns the disturbing truth about what the ‘great beyond’ really spells for grocery products, backed up by his deformed sausage pal Barry (Michael Cera) who survives a close shave. Now Frank needs to convince the rest of the food population about their fate, before it’s too late.

Sausage Party is created by Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill, collaborating with Apatow disciples Paul Rudd, James Franco, Bill Hader, Danny McBride and the like, so you know the kind of film you’re in for, long before you ‘Get your fill’ (quoting the tagline). It’s pure filth, like consuming the dirtiest, calorific dish, awash with cheap ‘laughs’ at stereotypes along the way – Salma Hayek is horny Mexican taco Teresa, for example.

While it offers some crazy insights into the USA’s religious, racial and socio-political obsessions, Sausage Factory also prefers shock tactics to cultivating really clever puns consistently throughout that would have seriously sent up these American neurosises and Pixar’s cute character, coming-of-age adventures, where their world is oblivious to us. There are some seriously laugh-out-loud moments – just wait until the end crescendo, but F word-ing it in every sentence begins to wear thin, bordering on nauseating – and this is coming from a critic who is no stranger to a foul-mouthed rant.

It’s also hard to tell if Sausage Party wants to be taken seriously for its plethora of brilliant observations, as it just as quickly shies away when one of them becomes vaguely interesting, for fear of losing its infantile edge. That said the kitchen scene is a delightful Pixar-bashing episode, and a much needed highlight to break up the otherwise ‘samey’ plot of Frank et al trying to return to the shelf. Douche gets pumped ready for action but loses his spunk at the end; perhaps too much of a main plot distraction or an excuse for Rogen and gang to explore some anal humour? There was certainly a lot of fun had writing/ making this buddy movie, it appears.

Sausage Party goes off with a saucy sizzle and an outrageous bang but wilts at times along the way. If it wasn’t for the grand gang-bang finale boost, it would be a meaty disappointment left undercooked in places.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Ghostbusters ***

Ghostbusters

When the dust settled after the controversial announcement that beloved 80s film Ghostbusters would return to screens in 2016 with an all-female lead – directed by feminist film-maker Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids fame), the next thing to make peace with was having his Bridesmaids stars, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, in those familiar jumpsuits with proton guns chasing ghosts.

Indeed, to say this didn’t take a little getting used to at the start of watching the new reboot would be a lie. After all, Wiig and McCarthy come with great expectations and a presumed guarantee to provide big laughs. Their futile banter always raises a few giggles. In fact, it felt like watching the funny girls doing a Ghostbusters spoof, initially. However, the supporting roles from fellow Ghostbusters, the brilliant Kate McKinnon and equally great Leslie Jones are so strong that the new film has its very own personality and fun vibe, even though it had many nods to the original for fans, as well as cameos from the 1984 cast, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson.

The plot is much the same as the first: The usual ghostly activity begins brewing below Manhattan streets, leading to paranormal enthusiasts Erin (Wiig), Abby (McCarthy), eccentric nuclear engineer Jillian (McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Jones) forming a Ghostbuster girl gang to stop the supernatural threat taking over their world.

There is a naturally funny quartet at the centre of this, which is what any attempted reboot needed. The original ‘silliness’ is still there, though it feels a little forced until the film finds its flow. The show-stealer is actually beefcake Chris Hemsworth as the girls’ eye candy and hapless ‘bimbo’ assistant Kevin. To say Hemsworth is funny is an understatement – further enhanced by the end credits, so stay put and watch, as well as to the very end for an exciting teaser for the next planned installment.

Co-writer Feig and his writing partner Katie Dippold of The Heat and Parks and Recreation fame) seemed to have taken the sexist online jibes onboard and worked them into the script, including a YouTube moment the Ghostbusters share over an online comment, “ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts” posted in response to their video. The biggest two-finger salute to the naysayers goes to Hemsworth in the traditional female ‘ditzy’ role, a highly entertaining role reversal that any sex will appreciate. By all means, none of this is ‘in-yer-face’ obvious either. There are loads of nods to other films and their iconic scenarios, helped by the casting of Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong and the like, so it’s an entertaining mix to pick through.

However, the main grievance is the distinct lack of ‘baddie’ here, with virtually no personality that they come and go without marking much of a mark. This is only saved by things like McKinnon’s excellent set-piece of gun-ho slaying of ghouls in an end showdown, a nod to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and a Stay Puft cousin on the loose. The effects also try to retain the 1984 production aesthetics, without surrendering to latter-day ones that have come on leaps and bounds.

All in all there is a feeling of something new in the air, but with a comforting dosage of nostalgia. Feig appears to have got most elements just right in the 2016 reboot, enough to provide a solid, spooky night out at the cinema.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Zoolander 2 **

zoolander2

“We’re back!” says Zoolander: Cautious applause aside after a 15-year absence. Naturally, any opportunity to reunite infamous male models Derek Zoolander and Hansel – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson – fills you with joy for more fashion-world jibes in the silliest style. The actors struck the right comic pose back in 2001 and we embraced their on-screen idiocy and Blue Steel look. Though the pair have aged (sorry, Derek and Hansel), it seems the jokes have got weary too. The plot is just as plain stupid but lazy in writing style.

Zoolander is coaxed out of reclusion/retirement after the destruction of his family, when his estranged young son Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold) is located in an orphanage in Rome and he is invited to star in the fashion show of a trendy upcoming designer. Unbeknown to him, Hansel has also been prised from his desert orgy to co-star on the catwalk – the pair having not spoken since the tragic accident that also scarred Hansel. However, with music celebrities being taken out worldwide, and Derek Jr. being kidnapped, the models must unite – with a little help from Interpol’s Fashion Division, run by ex-swimwear model Valentina (Penélope Cruz) – to find out who is behind it all.

The fashion faux pas is there’s very little fashion to enjoy being berated in Part II, as Derek and Hansel try all their moves to wow old and new crowds, but seem more bogged down with their very own little Bond adventure. Granted, the franchise always provides a cheap giggle at non-actors in cameos trying to act. The opening scene with Justin Bieber on the run is one such example – though the trailer sadly reveals his fate. However, as with the finale that proudly parades an A-list of fashion icons getting involved – after some wouldn’t even touch the last film, the writers squander some perfectly, potentially great scenarios to really send them (and their egos) up.

Though the idea is Blue Steel is missing and vital to save the day this time around, we want more of it – and much sooner. The lack of the old dumb-smart comedy moments makes this film seem vacuous without any soul. Admittedly, it does peddle a few funny lines – the set-up of which the trailer spoils on the whole. In fact, Stiller and Owen pick up their characters’ personas without missing a beat, but the best line goes to Will Ferrell as the villainous, crazed fashion designer Mugatu – and that’s in the trailer.

Whilst watching the pair go from one car crash to another, you’re constantly waiting for the next cameo, like some social media addict needing their next celeb fix. In fact, one thing that rings true in Part II is the power of those with more online following that’s teased the hell out of here, much to our delight in a social-media-weary world. Even so-called current technology gets a ribbing, as these two archaic fashion-blazers are as mystified as some of us out there – such as how mobile battery life gets increasingly worse.

Ferrell steals what there is of a show, with an almost unrecognisable Kristen Wiig as Donatella Versace-pouting ‘twin’ Alexanya Atoz winning the most outrageous frock prize. The highlight cameo is Benedict Cumberbatch as s/he model-of-the-moment All, an absolute scream, regardless of the controversy surrounding transgender representation.

Zoolander 2 is a cheap knock-off of its haute couture 2001 comedy gem. The only positive is getting to see Derek and Hansel back together, so a small victory for Stiller and Owen, nevertheless.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Martian ****

the-martian

“I am the greatest botanist on this planet”, says Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut who’s been left behind on Mars – presumed dead – as the only living soul. The ever-likeable Matt Damon convincingly plays Watney in another standout role, just that like that of Jason Bourne in the Bourne saga.

Watney’s line is one of the many in this gripping solo delivery and would ordinarily seem corny in a big blockbuster but demonstrates a playful comedic theme that runs right through director Ridley Scott’s new space epic, The Martian. The story’s intriguing contrast is the serious subject matter of Watney’s situation verses his positive can-do attitude and will to survive that render his situation more accessible to us and ‘lightens’ the mood.

That’s not to say Scott’s sumptuous cinematic spectacle – one of his best in a long time – doesn’t pull any action-packed punches and rack the tension sky high when needed. Indeed, The Martian comes with a surprising number of nail-biting moments that Watney encounters then resolves to the best of his ability – and with some devilish, sarcastic wit. There is also the daring grand finale that stretches credibility somewhat but works.

Back on Earth, NASA boffins and chiefs try to figure out how to get him back – or face an international PR disaster, much along the lines of many a space disaster movie such as Apollo 13. The fascination here is not mechanical fixes as such, but botanical ones – the first movie of its kind to relish the appearance of the humble potato. Apart from our curiosity about possible survival on Mars, it’s the very fact that Watney uses his environment and man’s ‘space junk’ to make Mars inhabitable that makes The Martian something different from the rest of the space disaster bunch.

Damon does not act entirely alone – albeit in parallel – in the film, getting some tremendous support from the likes of Jessica Chastain (Watney’s compromised commander), Jeff Daniels (NASA chief) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (another harassed NASA big-wig who has to find operational solutions). There are even some commendable performances from Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Michael Peña and Kate Mara to name a few that each serve their purpose to bolster the storyline.

In fact, nothing, it seems, human or inanimate, goes to waste here, making The Martian a very satisfying watch and a return to the Scott glory days.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty ***

walter-mitty

The new Forrest Gump this is not, in terms of an iconic screen character, but actor-director Ben Stiller’s remake of the James Thurber classic 1947 short, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty has some life-assessing moments, some of which you may be stirred into making. In that sense, it has a poignant and ‘inspiring’ legacy that rings more true in these gloomy days of austerity. Indeed, Stiller is a family favourite and guarantees a degree of endearing and modest entertainment value too.

Average, single Walter Mitty (Stiller juggling lead role as well as directing) is a hardworking stills library researcher at Life magazine who has a habit of zoning out and having fantastical daydreams. When his job is put on the line through a digital revamp of the magazine, led by ignorant hatchet man Ted Hendricks (a delightfully spiteful Adam Scott), and egged on by potential love interest and finance colleague Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig), Mitty’s daydreams become reality. His quest is to find a lost negative sent in by famous photographer Sean O’Connell (a Zen Sean Penn), said to be ‘the quintessence of life’, that will take pride of place on the last edition of Life magazine.

This is a situation where a film’s trailer sells quite a different kind of film. Indeed, to appeal to the usual Stiller audience, a degree of this is necessary. The actor is known for comedy roles and this is where any misconceptions could understandably happen. Hence, tonally, the film feels uneven, with the first half almost undermining the life-affirming sentiments of the latter and moving ending. Stiller places us in a false sense of security to begin with, with the greatest intention perhaps. He also confusingly blends fantasy and reality to the extent that Mitty’s encounter with a shark feels totally implausible. This is either more expertly seamless than the original film or subversively muddled in execution (the jury’s still out here).

Naturally, the most enjoyable parts of the film are where Mitty starts ‘living’ without fantasyland, with Stiller’s rather indulgent Icelandic scenery awakening the adventurer spirit in any of us. There are moments of being at the whim of the director’s own fantasies being played out (and ego to boot). Nevertheless, it’s perhaps the chance of escapism to places that most will never get to and being in obscure and exciting situations that really sell the film’s promise, regardless of any expectant Stiller affability.

There are also some nice if fleeting moments to savour from supporting cast members Wigg, Penn and Shirley MacLaine as Mitty’s slightly scatty mother, Edna. Penn makes another snatch bid for sex symbol status as brooding, deep-thinking, creative O’Connell on a mountainside. However, it’s Stiller’s championing of the ‘ordinary man’ on a serious note that keeps things very much grounded. In addition, the film challenges the changing working landscape due to the rapid advancement of technology and human expendability, where time-consuming, artful practices are becoming obsolete that resonate the loudest here.

Walter Mitty promises a bit of everything for the family appetite this festive season, but be prepared for it altering the goalposts between comedy classic of the Stiller variety and action-drama that some might find patchy to reconcile. The danger is the detail being skimmed over in parts as you try to find its comfortable grove. That said, you do get there in the end after quite a picturesque journey, with the last scene definitely hitting home with a nostalgic and gloriously triumphant air punch.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues ****

Anchorman-2

Some might argue, why do another Anchorman film, given the low takings of the first back in 2004 (around $90 million mark)? The chauvinist, un-PC news dinosaur that is perfectly-coiffured newsreader Ron Burgundy – played by Will Ferrell – surely has said everything he needs to say back then. And if you didn’t like what he had to say, then this film is not going to bring you back to the cinema in a hurry.

However, the key difference this time is the commentary on the mushrooming growth of 24-hour news services from the 1980s to now that has left us with channels upon channels of (sometimes meaningless) content, and in particular, certain stations that make news out of a paper bag opening. This is where Ferrell-McKay’s sequel is pure genius in the comedy stakes, with an almighty end battle to gleefully relish.

Burgundy should have left Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) to the bears in the first film as she gets a coveted TV position, leaving him unable to continue their relationship. As time passes, amusement park worker Burgundy gets a call out of the blue in the knick of time from a producer of a new 24-hour news station in New York, inviting him to host the graveyard slot. Burgundy rounds up his former news crew, Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Champ Kind (David Koechner) with hilarious and risqué effect. But can he beat smooth archrival Jack Lime (James Marsden) in the ratings war?

Fans of the first film will be delivered more of the same this time around as the writing team give nods to past events and gags. Where as the first film seemed to be a mouthpiece for Ferrell’s outrageous lead character, shooting off where and when, this time there is more purpose disguised under the utter lunacy. It is essentially bonkers fun – just watching the first scene makes you wonder exactly where the story is going and it’s as far-fetched as can be imagined.

The two hours do seem to fly by when you’re having fun and allow yourself to be submerged in the stupidity. However, this is not without a tad of lag, for example, the uncomfortable dinner table scene when Ferrell is given carte blanche to peddle every racist black pun, plus the real purpose of the ferocious first scene dragged out in a reunion story that has moments of amusement but gets a little tedious in the end.

Ferrell is just as loveably idiotic and entertaining as Burgundy, and there are some nice confrontations as 70s meets 80s boardroom thinking and the advent of sexual and racial equality in the workplace. The Burgundy crew do much the same, with the most memorable being Carell’s Brick who has an insane ‘banter’ going with an equally socially challenged colleague and love interest, Chani, played by ‘comedy flavour of the moment’ Kristen Wiig. That said Brick’s character still delivers some hilarious solo turns, including being introduced to chromakeying.

The headline is: Anchorman 2 has all the ingredients for a daft night out, but you do have to surrender your brain and go with it. Certainly, you don’t have to have experienced working in a newsroom – but it helps. Nevertheless, everyone must have an opinion on the plethora of infuriating TV channels available, as well as being tuned into YouTube for the funniest videos that go viral. It’s these current, social issues that Anchorman 2 really ties in nicely with the comedy, and that’s why Burgundy is still a legend needed to subtly mock our reliance on 24-hour content. There could certainly be a later Anchorman film that targets the online/social media addiction…

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Bridesmaids *****

The biggest mistake you can make is to dismiss Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids as yet another pre-wedding ‘chick flick’, along the lines of 27 Dresses. An even bigger one is writing it off as simply a ‘female Hangover’ – even though contrary to critic sentiment, the lads in Bangkok are riding high at No.2 slot in the UK box office. In this sense, there’s still plenty of mileage left in stag/hen comedy. The problem Bridesmaids has is its goofy, snappy trailer could never do justice to the excellent timing and delivery that’s right on the mark.

Bridesmaids sees Annie (Kristen Wiig) picked as her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour. Although happy for her, it highlights what’s missing from Annie’s life, and she soon discovers just how much pressure is involved helping organise Lillian’s big day, including the hen night. Things don’t help when you’re lovelorn and broke and have an annoyingly perfect and rich girlfriend of Lillian’s (Rose Byrne) hell bent on upstaging you. It looks like Annie is going to have to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.

As co-writer, star Wiig is the perfect choice for the lead of Annie because she knows her material and can play down extraordinary moments of madness. After popping up on international radar as potty-mouthed Ruth Buggs in Paul – Americans will know her better from SNL, it feels as though this is Wiig’s true moment to shine. She’s helped co-pen a comedy where women are finally not just pretty, witty appendages, but damn funny as hell. The writing is razor-sharp and targeted at both sexes – and yes, more males than females were howling with laughter in our screening. It also helps that Wiig is pitch-perfect, with one of the best and most hilarious post-sex conversations with Jon Hamm as her cocky ‘f**kbuddy” in an opening clincher in a long time.

The visual gags never overstay their screen welcome but add just enough to portray any given situation, or enhance it further. Wiig and co have thought long hard about the length of other set pieces in a film, too, with some resorting to toilet humour. But it’s delivered in a more heartfelt and meaningful manner – if that’s possible – that has you screwing your face up in disgust while crying with laughter in sympathy, such as the infamous food poisoning scenes. It’s as though the all-female writing team – that includes Annie Mumolo (the nervous woman on the plane next to Annie in the film) – has taken traditionally male-focused humour and given it purpose.

One the biggest stars to shine in this is Melissa McCarthy of Samantha Who? fame who, no stranger to weighty issues in her roles, is man-hungry ‘government agent’ and Lillian’s future sister-in-law, tomboy Megan, who doesn’t let anything or anyone bring her down. The comic timing between her and Wiig is genius, slowing down the pace to capture a poignant moment, before ramping it up again – and no one will forget Megan’s meat sandwich moment at the end in a hurry. In fact, Byrne is also brilliant as uptight Helen, Annie’s nemesis, with her most memorable – and the film’s never-ending – scene opposite Wiig at the engagement party.

Non-US talent both shines and flickers. On the plus side, Chris O’Dowd is like a less-overbearing Irish Seth Rogen as Officer Nathan Rhodes, Annie’s love interest. He treads a finer, more endearing line as Rhodes, and although seems like an unlikely union with Wiig, matches her deadpan wit and delivery as one of the most compelling rom-com pairings in recent years – by the way, this is the only rom-com element as Bridesmaids avoids most of the genre clichés, until the very end that is. On the downside, the scenes with Little Britain’s Matt Lucas and Aussie actress Rebel Wilson as Annie’s flatmates seem relatively pointless, adding nothing to the story. It’s as though Wiig fancied having Lucas in it, so wrote him in. As these scenes are brief, they don’t detract from the overall entertainment value.

Bridesmaids is THE best unisex night out at the cinema you’ll have in ages – this is the best proposal yet, and an invite you shouldn’t decline.

5/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Paul – 4*

If the thought of yet another PeggFrost offering turns the stomach, click away now. Paul is the pair’s ultimate geek-worshipping buddy flick, with a little help from fellow US nerd Seth Rogen, voicing Paul. It all sounds distinctly ‘non-Valentine’, the decisive anti-date movie. But if a little bromance, escapism and a good consistency of chuckles will get your beloved in the mood, don’t dismiss this alternative Cupid’s arrow on face value.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost played two sci-fi fans, Graeme and Clive, who having visited the geek’s wet dream, the Comic-Con convention in San Diego, USA, set off in a rented Winnebago to explore the legendary route of UFO crash sites of Area 51. What they don’t vouch for is coming across their very own, real McCoy, dope-smoking alien Paul. Hence, begins a frantic and action-packed journey to reunite Paul with his kind in a woodland meeting place, not too dissimilar to the finale of E.T. – minus the BMX bikes.

Pegg and Frost simply geek out with references to a whole number of sci-fi classics, like one great big homage for the genre’s fans everywhere, but without going overboard and way over the heads of those just wanting a bit of light entertain. They even bring on board Alien Queen, Sigourney Weaver, as the Federal boss lady (a voice off-camera until the end), who sadly gives up her iconic line, “Get away from her, you bitch”, to another character in the film. That said the lads’ rapport is not quite on a par with their previous hits, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz that nicely bat the quips back and forth with a healthy doss of irony, and the result is watery imitation with this film. But the addition of Rogen as Paul certainly makes up for a comical and enjoyable threesome that deflects attention away from the pair’s less-than-risqué, better-keep-the-studio-happy gags.

Admittedly, there was a moment of scepticism when our two Brit nerds narrowly avoid a pile-up with an out-of-control car on a deserted mid-West road, and we all meet Paul for the first time. Initially, Rogen’s docile tones seem a tad unconvincing – as does Pegg’s eye-line with the CGI character. However, thanks to co-star Joe Lo Truglio – who plays equally geeky Special Agent O’Reilly in this – lending a hand, physically, as ‘Paul’ on set, things in the effects department do improve. Paul is outrageously outspoken, like an alien frat boy, but also acutely aware in any given situation that he finds his friends and himself in of what’s at stake, and looking like the stereotypical alien image we all know (parodied in the film), makes it very easy for us to fall for him as a Noughties-style E.T. Plus there’s a personal favourite Marmite gag.

Whatever Pegg and Frost say about the very premise of the film being about extraterrestrial life, therefore, instantly challenging the Creationist’s view point, this film has a distinctly anti-religious jibe to it that cannot be dismissed as an inevitable R-rated expectation with such a comedy. With the entrance of pro-Creationist Ruth Buggs, played by Kristen Wiig, the comedy treads a fine line, especially when Buggs goes into cursing overdrive, as though this will ‘free’ her from her faith-bound chains. It will thrill some, coupled with Paul’s ‘Evolve this’ t-shirt, and be deemed childish and lazy writing by others, use to a better calibre of script from Pegg and Frost. Still, Wiig delivers her comic timing with great aplomb, demonstrating she has star quality in the making.

Pro-evolution debate aside for now, which is “kind of a buzz kill”, on the whole, Paul beams feel-good fun, cheekiness and carefree spirit. So, if Portman has scared you off watching her in her latest romcom, No Strings Attached, that’s also out on February 14th, after her turn as an unhinged ballerina, Paul offers a highly entertaining, albeit juvenile-humoured alternative to the usual loved-up pulp.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer


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