DVD Tuesday: ‘Paul’ and ‘Mars Needs Moms’

by W. Andrew Powell

A scene from Paul starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

A scene from Paul starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg

This week’s new releases on Blu-ray and DVD include: Paul, the tongue-in-cheek alien comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost; the animated Disney film, Mars Needs Moms; and the stoner comedy, Your Highness.

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
Director: Greg Mottola

Rated: 7/10

As far as I’m concerned there are only two types of people in the world: those who love Simon Pegg, and those who don’t. If you’re part of the former category, I can’t think of a better film for you this week than the nerdy comedy, Paul.

Ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead all those years ago I’ve been a fan of Pegg, which makes the arrival of Paul, his first major North American film, all the more exciting.

Greg Mottola, who helmed Superbad and Adventureland, directs this zany comedy about two sci-fi geeks, Graeme and Clive–played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost–on a road trip through America’s heartland of obsessive UFO fanaticism. As it turns out, the two friends meet an actual alien on their trip, voiced by Seth Rogen, who has been stuck at a top-secret military base for the last 60 years.

Hitching a ride with the two Earthlings, and a woman the group mistakenly kidnaps, Graeme and Clive come up with a crazy scheme to get their new alien friend back to his mother ship and on his way home.

Written by Pegg and Frost, who have never written a film together before, Paul is a madcap comedy with a heartfelt side that features loads of nerdy references to all things alien, from Star Wars to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Paul is a funny, engaging comedy not only because Rogen offers some comic charm as the voice of Paul, but most importantly because the chemistry between Pegg and Frost is as bubbly as we’ve seen before. On the other hand, Paul does suffer from being fairly obvious at times, even if Jason Bateman is spectacular as the kick-ass secret agent.

The only other problem with Paul might be that, for all the great talent assembled here, it lacks the strong direction of Pegg’s work with director Edgar Wright. Mottola’s previous films were good, but the pieces just don’t fit together as well in Paul, even if the film is frequently hilarious.

Features and extras on the DVD include some sub-par bloopers, a very funny feature showing the many silly faces of Simon Pegg, a feature commentary by Mottola, Pegg, Frost, and Hader, not to mention a making-of featurette.

Mars Needs Moms
Starring: Seth Green, Joan Cusack, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon
Director: Simon Wells

Rated: 6.5/10

The next time someone interviews producer Robert Zemeckis, perhaps they can ask him if the motion capture process is really entertaining to work on, because from my perspective it’s ruining his movies.

The Prince of Egypt director Simon Wells helms the latest Disney film by Zemeckis about a young boy named Milo, played by Seth Green, who wakes up to witness his mother being kidnapped and taken to Mars.

Luckily, Milo ends up on the Martian ship and eventually meets the loony and technology-obsessed Gribble, voiced by Dan Fogler, a full-grown man who’s been living inside the alien planet since his mother was abducted back in the 1980s. The only problem with Gribble is that he wants Milo to stick around so he can finally have a friend on the planet, but of course all Milo wants to do is find his mother.

At the same time Milo learns about the control-obsessed Martians who have given up normal parenting in favour of a culture that has men and women segregated, with the boys being raised by the men in the garbage pits, and the girls being raised by robots that are programmed with the parenting skills of the captured mothers from Earth.

Fighting to save his mother, Milo will go from the surface of Mars, down to the heart of the planet and back again, meeting a strange assortment of creatures along the way and learning what movie makers might want to call a “valuable lesson” about his mother.

Featuring some impressive, beautiful scenery, design and effects, Mars Needs Moms has its moments that will inspire kids and adults. Topping that list are some of the subterranean landscapes, which are actually stunning, and the overall character design. The ending is also fairly touching, and might be a lesson a lot of moms would like their kids to learn.

On the other hand, the writing is okay at best, and often not very funny, and the human faces are absolutely appalling. These are really terrible, terrible renderings of humanity, and the mixture of human and Martian faces on screen together actually looked disconcerting, like you couldn’t imagine why an animated cartoon was standing next to a somewhat human looking face.

This problem has haunted Zemeckis since he started doing motion capture films, and I don’t know why he hasn’t given up on the process. It seems to work fine for regular body movements, but the more the producer tries to make these character’s faces look human, the farther away he seems to get.

Despite the faces, the slow pace throughout the early scenes, and a script that could have been a lot better, I’m still recommending Mars Needs Moms, especially for families who want a good weekend movie to entertain the kids. It will definitely keep the young ones happy, but I would caution parents that some elements may be a bit scary for younger children.

Blu-ray extras are decent, but not outstanding, including an audio commentary, a few deleted scenes, and an interesting feature on the motion capture process, Life on Mars: The Full Motion-Capture Experience.

Your Highness
Starring: James Franco, Natalie Portman, Danny R. McBride, Zooey Deschanel, Rasmus Hardiker, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux
Director: David Gordon Green

Rated: 5/10

As the adage goes, if a trailer makes a movie look dumb, and the movies sounds dumb, you’ve probably got a dumb movie, which might explain why Your Highness is such a terrible film.

Danny R. McBride, and James Franco star in this medieval stoner comedy about two princes trying to protect their kingdom from an evil wizard by teaming up with a dangerous warrior, played by Natalie Portman. Franco plays the heroic Fabious, while McBride is the ne’er-do-well younger prince who has been told to man up or get lost.

Forgettable, silly, and generally not at all funny, Your Highness is definitely a film you can skip.


Also arriving on DVD and Blu-ray this week:

Super, starring Rainn Wilson as an ineffectual man who decides to become a superhero vigilante, something he’s equally not all that great at.

Plus Disney’s The Fox And The Hound celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special edition that is packed with extras, plus the sequel.

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