The Source for Youth Ministry

Movie Reviews
by Jonathan McKee

Paul (8/9/2011)

Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use.

Starring Seth Rogan, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kristen Wig, Jason Bateman, Sigourney Weaver…

Directed by Greg Mottala (Superbad…)

Jonathan's Rating: Skip it

I haven’t been this offended since Ricky Gervais’ film, The Invention of Lying.

I was sooooooooooooooooo disappointed with this film. Let me just start by reminding many of you that I am not only a film geek, I’m kinda a nerd at times. If I could afford one of those really cool storm trooper costumes, I’d wear it regularly around the house just for fun. My son and I regularly quote movies together, often quoting Star Wars and other science fiction classics. Like I said—“nerd.”

So that being said, I had high expectations from this film from the previews. It looked hilarious, it looked like it was going to spoof numerous films, and the icing on the cake—it was co-written by Simon Pegg, who I really enjoy.

My hesitations, however, were the fact that the film was R for language and some sexual references (an understatement), Seth Rogan was in it (he seems to be attracted to raunchy material), and it was directed by the Superbad’s Greg Mottala.

Okay… putting all those hesitations in black and white does seem to bellow, “Jonathan, how did you not know that this film would dip into the bowels of inappropriateness, selling out for a cheap laugh?!!”

Two words: Simon Pegg.

I really have enjoyed some of Simon’s earlier works (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc.) and I thought this would be the same creatively funny caliber. Unfortunately, Paul focused its efforts more on the offensive.

The film started well with a really creative premise. Two nerds from England (Pegg and Frost) travel the U.S. on a pilgrimage that starting at ComicCon and journeyed dot to dot through America’s UFO heartland. Their road trip is interrupted by a foul mouthed, smoking, drinking, atheist alien named Paul (Rogan).

Here’s where the film got tricky. Paul was cool. Despite his many vices, he was a fun, likable character running from corrupt government leaders that wanted to dissect him. Their adventures were hilarious, filled with classic movie quotes and homages, and cameos from guys like Steven Spielberg himself. It was difficult not to love these moments.

But then, as the story develops, the audience is taken on a journey where everything bad is made to look good, and everything good is portrayed as ridiculous.

The first hint of this was when they meet a quirky Christian named Ruth Buggs (Wiig). Ruth has pictures of Jesus on the wall and is portrayed as sheltered, uptight and naïve. When she discovers that Paul and the nerds don’t believe in God, she tries to argue with them. “The world is 4,000 years old and can only be the product of intelligent design!” Paul simply responds, “That’s horsesh**! Paul uses his powers to show her the supposed truth about the world and Ruth realizes that God was just a hoax. Feeling ripped off, Ruth starts cursing profusely, smoking weed and asks one of the guys if he would “fornicate” with her.

For the rest of the movie, Christianity is made to look ridiculous, evolution is portrayed as common sense fact, and vices like smoking, drinking, cursing, even stealing are celebrated, with no consequences.

The whole theatre loved it! When Ruth tried pot for the first time, the audience celebrated. When she cursed, the audience roared in laughter. When Ruth’s dad tried to get her back, proclaiming, “I’m on a mission from God!” He was shot by an agent who said, “Tell him you failed!” The crowd cheered.

Honestly, it was a heartbreaking experience.

Some day people are going to find out the truth.

Until then, we need to do what Ephesians 4:1 says and live a life worthy of your calling. Then, as we mature and grow in our faith…
    14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:14, 15)

Most kids shouldn’t. But if you read the thoughts above and the discussion below and think that your older, mature teenager might benefit from the conversation, you may decide that this film would be a good one to co-watch with them. (Let me be clear. I’m not recommending this film. I’m just suggesting that if you have a 17-year-old or 18-year-old kid that will watch the film anyway, then I suggest you watch it with them and discuss it.)

Conversation Starter
Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):

Q: What’s the message/theme of this movie?

A: Some might say that this film was about saving an innocent creature from torture and death. If that was it, then it would be a noble theme. Although that was the plot of the film, I think the subtle messages and themes that the film preached were much stronger. Themes like, “Live for the moment” and attitudes like, “Who cares! Just go for it!”

Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to this movie?
A: First, we shouldn’t even watch this kind of garbage.

But, if someone sees this film and wants to discuss it, we might be able to talk about the lies portrayed in this film. A good way to help our kids discover these kind of lies is to ask them questions that help them process what they saw.

I might ask my kids questions like this:

  1. What were some of the ways Paul was a positive role model?
  2. What were some of the ways that Paul was a negative role model?
  3. What were some of the activities that Paul and the others in the RV found themselves doing that were destructive, harmful, against the law or against Biblical values (stealing, smoking pot, talking raunchy)?
  4. Were any of these negative activities made to look bad? In the film, did we see any consequences for any of these activities?
  5. What are some real life consequences to these kinds of activities?

Then I might want to teach my kids two principles about films like this:

  1. The Bible is clear that people will try to deceive us with lies that sound like the truth. The more time we spend studying God’s word and living a life of faith in Him, we’ll mature in the Lord. Then, as we mature and grow in our faith…

      14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:14, 15)

  2. As God changes us and molds us to be more like him, we are going to recognize this kind of deception, get rid of our old ways, and put on a new attitude from the Spirit, slowly making us more like God, righteous and holy. (Now read where the passage above left off, Ephesians 4:17-32)

Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this movie to actually living out those opinions?
A: Frankly, we need to first address the fact that this kind of media is lying to us, and young people are believing these lies. Of course, young people will just say, “Mom, this doesn’t effect me.” Research shows the complete opposite. (See here)

Secondly, we can actually compare the lies of this film to the truth of the Word of God as we just did above.

Then maybe ask some questions to our kids about how to live out the truth day to day?

  • What are ways we can avoid being infiltrated with these kind of lies?
  • What are ways we can hold on to the truth?
  • What are ways that we can allow God to renew our thoughts and attitudes?
  • How can we help each other cling to truth?

Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, and You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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