PAUL:

British performers Nick Frost and Simon Pegg have made their mark by putting their distinct, comic touches on American film genres (HOT FUZZ, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) while lampooning its pop culture. That’s the formula at work in this amusing comedy in which they portray a pair of sci-fi fanboys on a tour of American “UFO hot spots” who wind up harboring a big-headed, wise-cracking extraterrestrial (voiced by Seth Rogen) on the run from Area 51. Think of it as a road movie with its usual assortment of oddball characters that morphs into a parody of space alien flicks and you get a fairly good idea of how Frost and Pegg’s screenplay unwinds.

Some of the characters are outlandishly over the top like the fundamentalist RV park owner (John Carroll Lynch) and his creationist-obsessed daughter (Kristen Wiig) who wears a T-shirt of Jesus shooting Charles Darwin in the head. Rogen’s (KNOCKED UP) title character seems, at times, like he’s a rehash of the actor’s “slacker dude” persona that he’s made a career of playing.

Despite a clever cameo by Sigourney Weaver (ALIEN), the “twist ending” isn’t particularly believable from a writing standpoint. What’s more, for a work that attempts to be an “anti-E.T.,” the conclusion dredges up a similar type of sentiment prevalent in that vastly overrated Steven Spielberg movie (There, I said it.).

But there’s also a heaping helping of that subtle humor that intelligent Yanks truly appreciate about the Brits. What results is an enjoyable movie that’s well-paced with a knowing yet appreciative wink at all the geeks who’ve put the films parodied in their lofty position. That makes ordinary looking “blokes” like Frost and Pegg perfect for this kind of role.

CRITIC’S GRADE: B-

MOVIES TO WATCH FOR IN APRIL: INSIDIOUS (April 1), SOURCE CODE (April 1), ARTHUR (April 8), HANNA (April 8), YOUR HIGHNESS (April 8), RIO (April 15), SCREAM 4 (April 15), AFRICAN CATS (April 22), APOLLO 18 (April 22), WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (April 22), FAST FIVE (April 29), PROM (April 29)