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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The Lefty Hollywood Watch: Is 'Paul' really a Christian trashing film?

March 21, 2011 |  1:52 pm

Simon_pegg The conservative right has its story and it's sticking to it: Any tax increase is a sign of Armageddon, teachers unions are out to destroy our educational system, Barack Obama is a Final Four-obsessed Socialist mandarin and, oh yeah, Hollywood is at war with conservative America's Christian values. That's the party line at Andrew Breitbart's Big Hollywood website, which regularly sounds the alarm against every tiny perceived slight against the right in nearly every Hollywood movie.

It was Big Hollywood that led the charge against "Avatar," America's biggest box office hit,  claiming it was full of pro-environment and anti-military propaganda. John Nolte, the website's editor, even went after "The Blind Side," perhaps the most pro-conservative-values film to come out of Hollywood in years, focusing on one shot that coaxed a laugh out of a photo of George Bush on a post office wall.

Now Nolte is up in arms about "Paul," the zany new comedy from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the guys behind "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead," which he's calling a Christian-trashing film, saying he can't imagine why the "Hot Fuzz" crew "would choose to go out of their way to antagonize Christians with a $40 million investment on the line...I guess their bigotry just got the best of them." Even though he clearly hasn't seen the film himself, he pulls some quotes from a few reviews to support his claim that "Paul" is some kind of "left-wing, atheist polemic disguised as escapist comedy."

Actually, it's a comedy. And good comedy has to be allowed to take aim at anyone, from minorities and silly, self-important bozos to crass opportunists and blowhards of all shapes, colors, creeds and political stripes. With "Paul," Pegg and Frost decided to make fun of America's Comic-Con geekdom, so the film revolves around a pair of sci-fi nerds on an odyssey through our UFO heartland. They do have fun with a religious fundamentalist (played by the wonderful Kristin Wiig) living in a trailer park, but if you can't laugh at the sight of her wearing a T-shirt showing Jesus shooting Darwin, then you clearly have a humor deficiency.

Nolte has been crowing that "Paul" had a weak opening, since he believes that supports the party line at  Big Hollywood, which is convinced that Hollywood lefties are so eager to send ideological messages that they keep losing money on films that insult God-fearing Americans. Actually, Hollywood loses money on all sorts of movies all the time, but if Nolte really believes that Hollywood is driven by ideological, not profit, motives, someone should let him sit in on a couple of studio marketing meetings in which the marketing team is desperately trying to find ways to reach every sliver and slice of every demographic known to man.

In Hollywood, capitalism reigns supreme. They want the blue state audience and the red state audience and everyone in between. As for a comedy like "Paul," the Big Hollywood true believers should lighten up a little. Or take some advice from New York Post's Kyle Smith, a conservative who gave a big thumb's up to "Paul." Smith believes conservatives should try to be less paranoid about possible slights, saying, "Going to the movies with our offensiveness detectors set on hypersensitive is the liberal's favorite pastime, not mine." I couldn't agree more. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a nerdy sci-fi comedy is just a silly movie trying to make you laugh.    

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: "Paul" writer-actors Simon Pegg, left, and Nick Frost pose for a portrait earlier this month in New York City. Credit: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters