Art is intended to immerse, to afford the recipient a means of removing himself from himself. In certain cases, art can provide bona fide escape from living’s trials, give rise to perspectival realignments, prompt cavernous reflection on the sincerest of levels. Great art does this, compels this from its audience. Unfortunately-as with everything, ever-that which is just, pure, worthy requires the existence of its converse: the lifeless, the vacuous, that which should not be, awful art.
The movie Paul wholeheartedly inhabits the latter realm of art. Paul is awful.
That isn’t meant to suggest that I didn’t experience things (emotions, reactions physical, spiritual) during Paul. In fact, I experienced many things. There was the sensation of my body gradually withering into my seat. On multiple occasions I was overrun with the awkward realization that I was sitting in a profoundly dark, nearly empty space with complete strangers staring at a wall. I realized that I had unconsciously purchased my Medium movie popcorn not as an agent of nourishment, but as a recompense from my past-self to my then-self. More than the listed though, I was bored. Resolutely, wholly, bewilderingly bored to the point that my boredom became a proxy source of inward, mutated entertainment.
In my boredom, I began to wonder what the target audience was for this movie. At first, I believed it to be the formerly maligned and the presently direly fetishized “nerd culture.” Unlike other contemporary and tremendous nerdagonist films Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Kick Ass, and Zombieland, the main characters of Paul are never interesting, sympathetic, creative, funny, alive in any way. The characters played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are an abstraction of a home-schooled agoraphobe’s concept of a nerd. They go to Comic-Con. They are sexually inept, obsessed with aliens, ugly, deplorably haircutted, wear poorly-fit t-shirts with obscure, poorly-advised references on them. They are not real, and the alienating (ha) affect this has on the audience is compounded when these two unreal automatons meet the titular, stupid, furiously un-hip/cool/happening/groovy alien ever, Paul.
As I observed Paul-his crassness, his proclivity for mooning and anal probe jokes, his beer-drinking, weed-smoking faux-rowdiness-I began to realize who the target audience for the movie was, because I began to see, to be blinded by the fact that the movie was awful, and as I realized this I realized also that I was the intended audience for Paul, and with the full, tumefying weight of that realization crushing my vulnerable brain, I began to hate myself.
To explain: I love Shaun of the Dead. I can watch that movie over and over and over and over until the Earth’s crust overruns with chasms, the seas foam like rabies-infested muzzles, history is swallowed into nothingness and I die. It is one of the most consummately entertaining movies I have ever seen. I cherish its existence. Less intense sentiments surround Hot Fuzz, SofD‘s attitudinal successor, but I still like that movie enough to choose to see a movie about those same characters than say, Limitless, with its demented trailer and Bradley Cooper swarm. Movie executives knew this, knew that fanboys would see Paul because of irrelevant setting of Comic-Con, that deaf people would see Paul because they’re the only people that can stand Seth Rogan’s voice, that bored people with nothing better to do would see Paul because it is seemingly the lessest of the many evils currently populating the cinematic milieu. I am that bored person.
They were right. It seems that way. It is not that way.
A few weeks ago, I took my cousin Lil’ Ray to see I am Number Four in IMAX. Around five minutes into the movie, Timothy Olyphant turns to Number Four and says, “We need to get out of Florida before the Moglodorians track our scent.” This presaged what was to come, but, unlike Paul, I was never angry at I am Number Four. It was a movie made by people that don’t know any better, and I was able to come to terms with this, and truthfully enjoy the movie for its own lack of awareness and its twisted approximation of everything that should a good movie make. Paul, on the other hand, is awful art perpetrated by people that should know better, and I am equally guilty as an enabler of this art. I have provided the means for its continuation. But next time I will know better. I will hand the woman at the ticket counter my ID and $75 and say, “One for Limitless, please. No one man should have all that power.”
Strawberry Verdict: .5 out of 5 Strawberries