Take me to your dealer

The four-letter words fly in Paul, but the one used most often is “nerd.” It’s fitting with a movie so lovingly dedicated to geek chic, where the sci-fi in-jokes come so thick and fast you can cut through them with a light sabre.

In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures

In this film publicity image released by Universal Pictures

Paul

3 stars (out of 4)

Rated: 14A

The four-letter words fly in Paul, but the one used most often is “nerd.”

It’s fitting with a movie so lovingly dedicated to geek chic, where the sci-fi in-jokes come so thick and fast you can cut through them with a light sabre.

It sounded like the delighted dude in my row at this week’s screening was going to explode from sheer joy as the references piled up.

Perhaps it was the country and western band playing the Cantina band theme from Star Wars that tipped him over the edge.

But it’s all good as Brit filmmakers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost happily grease the slide for our descent into the nerd pool with their story of Paul, a diminutive, potty-mouthed stoner alien who would have easily beaten E.T. senseless mid-call home and pocketed the quarter.

It’s not quite up to Pegg’s and Frosts’ Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz hilarity, perhaps because the lads have hooked up with Superbad’s Greg Mottola instead of Edgar Wright, the director of the two earlier and better efforts.

But even though Paul doesn’t quite make it to the top tier, it’s a fitting addition to the duo’s canon, which took on zombie and cop-buddy flicks and now turns to 1970s and ‘80s movies about close encounters and stranded aliens with healing powers.

Pasty Brit road trippers Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) decide to put a cherry on the top of their weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego with an RV road trip through the valley of the geeks with Area 51 as their goal.

Enter Paul, with his pot belly hanging over his board shorts, facility for foul language and slacker-hero attitude courtesy of a voice by Seth Rogen.

A guest of the feds since his spaceship crashed 60 years earlier, he’s outlived his usefulness to the U.S. government and the entertainment industry and is facing an unwanted cranium invasion.

He’s on the lam and needs the nerds to get him to a rendezvous with his home planet homies.

With a pair of bumbling G-men (Bill Hader and Jesse Plemons) in hot pursuit and the stone-faced Men in Black acolyte Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) refusing to give up the chase, what every guys-on-the-lam actioner needs is a willing gal, and they find it in Bible-thumping Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig).

Before you can say “Vulcan mind meld,” Paul has helped Ruth see the light and the formerly uptight missy starts spreading her wings by exploring the delights of foul language with a stream of hilarious non-sequitur swears.

With cameos from Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch, Blythe Danner, Jeffrey Tambor and even Steven Spielberg, Paul moves along at a good 99-minute clip.

More about the uncomplicated pleasures of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll and the power of bros bonding amid a crisis, Paul is a simple, entertaining road-trip movie that doesn’t ask us to do much more than strap in and enjoy the trip.

Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic with The Toronto Star.