Imagine E.T. recast as a low-rent comedy, conceived by the cheerfully profane Shaun of the Dead co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and you should have some idea what to expect from Paul, their first big-screen collaboration as screenwriters.
Absent the subversive touch of Edgar Wright, who directed and co-wrote Shaun (2004) and the pair’s buddy-cop parody Hot Fuzz (2007), Paul is a slighter diversion, as much a loving homage to geek culture as a gentle send-up of the genre’s lesser entries, including 1988’s Mac and Me.
Home Movies: Adam Sandler's Regressive Foray into Adulthood, Michael Cera's Bruising Video-Game Romance
Based on an original story by Adam Sandler and former Saturday Night Live writer Fred Wolf, Grown Ups contains not a single imaginative minute. It is as lazily conceived as anything Sandler has done.
But it must have been a blast to make. Judging by the fact that Sandler and his fellow SNL alum, with King of Queens star Kevin James gamely filling in for the late Chris Farley, spend so much time laughing at their own jokes, we might reasonably suspect something funny is afoot. Just try and find it.
Edgar Wright, the English director of the exuberant romantic comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, cites 2007’s Hot Fuzz, his Point Break-inspired follow-up to the 2004 zombie satire Shaun of the Dead, as the movie that afforded him the chance to film in his hometown of Wells, and to pay tribute to influences ranging from Agatha Christie to Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II.
At 40, Simon Pegg is too old to play Scott Pilgrim, the painfully ordinary 22-year-old bassist of the fledgling garage-rock trio Sex Bob-omb. Still rebounding from a painful breakup – he’s the dumpee – Scott finds an effusive “Scottaholic” in high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who soothes his tattered ego but otherwise fails to engage him. For all his affectations, he’s an aimless schlub.
Anna Kendrick doesn’t expect to win an Oscar for her ferociously perky supporting turn as a corporate terminator in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air. That, she says, is an honor earmarked for another actress, though she coyly declines to reveal the mystery winner’s identity.
Even if Kendrick, 24, is right, it would take nothing away from her remarkable breakthrough starring opposite George Clooney in Reitman’s meditation on the value of human contact in an age of digital communication. Nor would it diminish the impact of her scene-stealing performance as a vapid, shopping-obsessed teen in one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, New Moon.
There is no social satire to be gleaned from the stylishly staged skull crunching in Ruben Fleischer’s post-apocalyptic comedy Zombieland – and not much in the way of serious horror. The first-time feature director (formerly of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!) aims more for laughs than for the unrelenting dread of George A. Romero’s Living Dead movies, and he succeeds almost effortlessly: At 81 minutes, his debut is cheerfully macabre, briskly paced, brimming with demented energy, and otherwise totally disposable.