Indie director Greg Mottola started out with The Daytrippers back in 1996 and has gradually transitioned into more mainstream fare, although he has maintained enough smart edge to stave off the impression that he has simply become a studio pawn. He has found capable collaborators (Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig, producer Judd Apatow and his loose comedic troupe) with similar sensibilities and continued to fly under the broader radar scope, yet it’s obvious that Adventureland and Superbad paved the way for him to step up into the CGI class.
This time out he has hooked up with the Brit wits Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who handle the script and co-star as a couple of comic book convention enthusiasts eager to follow the American West’s UFO trail of fears until they have an actual close encounter with Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), the stoked extraterrestrial that has been the basis of 40 years of alien sightings and assumptions.
The resulting quest to help Paul escape from his secret government handlers (Sigourney Weaver, Jason Bateman) is mainly an excuse to add a plus one (or two) to this bromantic duo, but thanks to the laid-back approach of Mottola, his screenwriting co-stars, and Rogen and Wiig, Paul sneakily attempts to change our perceptions about alien and human life as we know it. And if they hadn’t gone so soft with the sentiment, this could have been a strong companion to Shaun of the Dead rather than its distant cousin. Grade: B-