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Dear Paul,

I’ll begin by saying that I have no regrets about seeing you. As a Saturday night distraction you proved to be a perfectly adequate film. You made me laugh, you never offended my tastes, and you had a shaggy charm about you that was very endearing.

The issue, though, is that you thought you could coast on this charm and the goodwill and nostalgia conjured by your myriad references to movies from my childhood. That’s a pretty lazy way to make friends, Paul, and definitely no way to build a lasting and meaningful relationship.

I know what you were thinking, though. After all, the idea of a foul-mouthed, beer swilling, cigarette smoking alien hanging out with a pair of British nerds seems ripe with both pop-culture and comedic possibilities. Your premise is so strong that you were all but guaranteed a good showing on your first weekend out of the gate. Since your leads were played by two cult-favorite nerds and your alien was voiced by one of America’s biggest comedy stars, your position was even stronger.

But like the hare who raced the tortoise you seemed to view your many advantages as a preemptive victory, rather than a means to an end. You allowed yourself to get loose and lazy, which can work for stoner buddy comedies, but seems like a big missed opportunity for such a promising concept comedy.

To wit, you went for just about every piece of thoughtless, low-hanging fruit that you could in your quest for laughs. Homophobic rednecks constantly mistaking our British heroes as gay, Fundamentalist Christians being ignorant, and nerds being called such by the squares. While I don’t mind well-worn stereotypes in films, and sometimes find them to be a boon to comedies because of their economic use of time and thought, it would have been nice to have them played a bit straighter, or with more narrative innovation.

Then there are your rote, well-worn story points. Aside from a third-act revelation of motive that genuinely caught me by surprise, your story beats were as predictable and telegraphed as they could have been without actually serving as some kind of post-modern comment on the template of science fiction films. The moment a character in this kind of movie mentions their ability to revive the dead and the danger of assuming the damage himself, you know someone will get shot or stabbed or burned to death sooner or later. This was just one of the climactic moments that lacked the emotional payoff you seemed to think it deserved because of your lack of effort.

But like I said, Paul, I still enjoyed our time together more than I have at most so-called comedies. Sure there were times I felt like you weren’t giving it your all, or that you were perhaps a bit full of yourself and therefore didn’t think you needed to try to get me to like you. If only you had given a bit of effort, we might have grown a stronger bond than the mere acquaintanceship that we are forced to settle for now.

Your pal,

Brian J. Roan

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