Paul

Now, I'm a geek. I know this and admit it freely. Among other signs of geekdom, I own comic books and Magic cards, roleplay every Saturday, and understand every in-joke in Galaxy Quest.

However, compared to Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, respectively, of Hot Fuzz), I know nothing of the world of the geek. I can tell you that the little silver robot everyone oohs over at the beginning of the flick is Twiki from the old Buck Rogers TV show, and that Ming the Merciless is from the Flash Gordon serials; but I can't identify the pictures on some of the T-shirts the guys wear, nor do I speak any Klingon. Shame on me, right? I've also never been to the San Diego Comic Con like they have, though if it helps, I did once go to a huge Star Trek convention in LA.

There's no better way to cap off a visit to the San Diego Comic Con than a trip to famous alien/UFO places in the American southwest. Did you know that Nevada State Highway 375 is called the Extraterrestrial Highway? I didn't, though somehow I wasn't surprised to learn that. I also never heard of the Black Mailbox in Nevada, which isn't even black, but white with graffiti on it; and doesn't belong to aliens or even a super-secret government group, but is just an ordinary mailbox belonging to some rancher. Apparently it's a popular spot to hang out and wait for UFOs to wander by.

In other words, our heroes are obviously the perfect people to find an alien, because they'll know exactly what to do. Or not. Unless fainting is exactly what to do, which it might be. After all, Paul does sound exactly like Seth Rogen.

The movie turns a little Pythonesque -- weird coincidences abound, as do even weirder characters, many with weird names. For instance, Adam Shadowchild (Jeffrey Tambor, the classic go-to guy for weird character actor parts) is an egotistical sci-fi/fantasy writer that the boys worship; while Moses Buggs (John Carroll Lynch, of Shutter Island, believe it or not) is a Bible-thumping, shotgun-toting wacko who wants our heroes dead. Haggard and O'Reilly (Bill Hader of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Joe Lo Truglio of the most recent Gulliver's Travels adaptation, respectively) are two of the strangest special agents you'll ever see. I'm not sure if they're supposed to be CIA, FBI, or what, but they drive a government-issue car and are good at following mysterious orders without really knowing what's going on. They're like overgrown kids with guns.

Leading those two (or trying to) on Paul's trail is Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman, State of Play), who takes orders from a mysterious woman. You'll know who she is as soon as you hear her voice, but I won't spoil the surprise. Rounding out the weirdness is Blythe Danner as Tara Walton, making a distinct step up from the world of those awful Ben Stiller movies she's been in lately; and Kristen Wiig of Date Night as Ruth Buggs. She's -- let's say repressed -- and looking to -- let's say expand her horizons in a lot of ways.

Now, there were a couple of times when I was faintly embarrassed at the humor. It actually got a little too odd and geeky once in a while, even for me. About twenty minutes in, I was wriggling uncomfortably in my seat, hoping it would get better. Thankfully, it did. A solid three and three-quarters out of five, because overall it was fun despite my wriggling. It makes fun of every science-fiction trope you can think of. It's X-Files-ish, Close Encounters-esque, and E.T.-like; but there's a very definite reason for that, aside from the writers (Pegg and Frost themselves) wanting to make those references, which I'm sure they did. Set phasers on faint, and don't forget to ask for a sparkler in your E.T. malt.

Image: 
The guys model the latest in headlamps for easier alien-hunting.

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