The Lies of “Paul”

Maybe you’ve seen previews for the new film, “Paul,”  the comedy about two nerds and an alien on a roadtrip across America.

Despite the R rating, this film has a huge draw to teenagers. That’s why it might be good to know that it was by far one of the most irresposible and offensive films I’ve seen in the last decade.

I went ahead and wrote up my two cents and a discussion guide for parents and youth workers for our new MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page. I’ll be adding this review within the next 24 hours. I wanted to give you, my blog readers, the first peak.

Paul (In Theatres)
Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Starring: Seth Rogan, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wig, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver…
I haven’t been this offended since Ricky Gervais’ film, The Invention of Lying.
I was sooooooooooooooooo disappointed with this film. Let me just start by reminding many of you that I am not only a film geek, I’m kinda a nerd at times. If I could afford one of those really cool storm trooper costumes, I’d wear it regularly around the house just for fun. My son and I regularly quote movies together, often quoting Star Wars and other science fiction classics. Like I said—“nerd.”
So that being said, I had high expectations from this film from the previews. It looked hilarious, it looked like it was going to spoof numerous films, and the icing on the cake—it was co-written by Simon Pegg, who I really enjoy.
My hesitations, however, were the fact that the film was R for language and some sexual references (an understatement), Seth Rogan was in it (he seems to be attracted to raunchy material), and it was directed by the Superbad’s Greg Mottala.
Okay… putting all those hesitations in black and white does seem to bellow, “Jonathan, how did you not know that this film would dip into the bowels of inappropriateness, selling out for a cheap laugh?!!”
Two words: Simon Pegg.
I really have enjoyed some of Simon’s earlier works (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc.) and I thought this would be the same creatively funny caliber. Unfortunately, Paul focused its efforts more on the offensive.
The film started well with a really creative premise. Two nerds from England (Pegg and Frost) travel the U.S. on a pilgrimage that starting at ComicCon and journeyed dot to dot through America’s UFO heartland. Their road trip is interrupted by a foul mouthed, smoking, drinking, atheist alien named Paul (Rogan).
Here’s where the film got tricky. Paul was cool. Despite his many vices, he was a fun, likable character running from corrupt government leaders that wanted to dissect him. Their adventures were hilarious, filled with classic movie quotes and homages, and cameos from guys like Steven Spielberg himself. It was difficult not to love these moments.
But then, as the story develops, the audience is taken on a journey where everything bad is made to look good, and everything good is portrayed as ridiculous.
The first hint of this was when they meet a quirky Christian named Ruth Buggs (Wiig). Ruth has pictures of Jesus on the wall and is portrayed as sheltered, uptight and naïve. When she discovers that Paul and the nerds don’t believe in God, she tries to argue with them. “The world is 4,000 years old and can only be the product of intelligent design!” Paul simply responds, “That’s horsesh**! Paul uses his powers to show her the supposed truth about the world and Ruth realizes that God was just a hoax. Feeling ripped off, Ruth starts cursing profusely, smoking weed and asks one of the guys if he would “fornicate” with her.
For the rest of the movie, Christianity is made to look ridiculous, evolution is portrayed as common sense fact, and vices like smoking, drinking, cursing, even stealing are celebrated, with no consequences.
The whole theatre loved it! When Ruth tried pot for the first time, the audience celebrated. When she cursed, the audience roared in laughter. When Ruth’s dad tried to get her back, proclaiming, “I’m on a mission from God!” He was shot by an agent who said, “Tell him you failed!” The crowd cheered.
Honestly, it was a heartbreaking experience.
Some day people are going to find out the truth.
Until then, we need to do what Ephesians 4:1 says and live a life worthy of your calling. Then, as we mature and grow in our faith…
 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:14, 15)
Jump on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page  for this review and a discussion guide for parents and youth workers– including scripture and discussion questions

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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5 Responses to The Lies of “Paul”

  1. Jim says:

    Doesn’t Paul feel guilty about shaking the girl’s faith? Doesn’t he quote the bible to restore her trust in its ability to guide everyday decision-making? You may be right that the film makes fun of Christianity, but making it out to be evil without considering those other points makes your argument pretty extremist. Those people laughing in the theater don’t hate Christianity, and they’re not evil, they’re just tired of hearing the kind of thoughtless, automatic slogans that Christians use all the time, like the girl’s father uses, and that’s why they cheered.

    • The film was so biased it was sickening, and the audience in my theater WAS laughing at Christians. That’s an accepted norm today, just look at ABC’s new show GCB. In PAUL, every Christian was represented as a fool. And sorry, quoting scripture doesn’t undo standing for a lie… I seem to remember someone else quoting scripture to Jesus himself.

  2. Chris says:

    This is not an inflammatory remark, purely interest: do you believe in evolution and the big bang theory?

    • I do believe in the big bang theory, in that God said “Let there be light,” and BANG.. it happened.

      As for evolution, I don’t have all the answers as to how and when the world was created, I just am convinced that there was a higher power involved in the creating.

  3. Jibs says:

    I wanted to ask the OP – have you considered that it wasn’t the filmmaker’s intention to send a message to the audience at all?

    I’m a fan of Simon Pegg’s past work as well. And as you may remember, his movies are on the whole, completely ridiculous in every way. By your logic, you should be irate about his films. “Shaun of the Dead” is clearly about a man who pretends everyone is diseased so he could go on a killing spree. Or how about “Hot Fuzz”? That violence-glorifying car chase of a flop is clearly promoting the rise of the suburban mafia. And don’t even get me started on “Spaced”. Those ADDHD burned out bottomfeeders are just leaching on the tit of hulu.com – clearly an allegory to the welfare state pushing its agenda to change our nation into a society of bottom feeders. Soylent green!!

    Of course, I’m being facetious. I’m only trying to point out that anyone attempting to interpret any film, let alone a comedy, should proceed with caution. Films are quite a subjective medium. A filmmaker’s intentions could be one things, and you could interpret something completely different. Many artists take the approach of art being whatever you believe it is most interesting to you. Just because you interpreted a meaning out of something doesn’t mean anyone else felt that way. Now, I can’t say that you’re wrong. You may even be right. Maybe there really is an article out here on the web that has Simon Pegg saying that “Paul” is his homage to the atheist movement and the destruction of all that is sacred, I can’t say for sure. I would bet, however, that the chances are a lot better that two guys got paid to sit around a laptop and try to make each other laugh while passing the joint around.

    Regardless of what the actual message “Paul” has, I think anyone who saw this movie was fully capable of turning off that part of their brains that actually believes watching something on a screen will hypnotise you into obeying everything you see and hear. It makes the moviegoing experience all the more enjoyable. Anyone who isn’t able to do that is too young to see it, hence the R rating.

    Learn to laugh at yourself. For Heaven’s sake, self-loathing is the cornerstone to good comedy!