Know Your Demographic: Paul vs. Mars Needs Moms

Okay, I know I said I wasn't planning to see a lot of movies but I took it easy this week, and then went ahead and took chances on a couple of films I didn't expect to enjoy. As it turned out, I enjoyed both of them.

The first, Mars Needs Moms, was far more fun than I expected it to be, though the story was rather transparently based on the simple morality play of a children's book. And that's where knowing your demographic probably would have served the investors well. As John Scalzi said better than I can, a film aimed at children and youth probably should not say "you need Mommy more than you think you do" right in the title. Granted, the kids aren't the ones buying the movie tickets, but are Mom and Dad going to buy tickets when the kids shrug non-committally when asked if they want to see a particular movie?

Story and marketing aside: I loved the visuals. My favorites were the blending of sleek, optical-chip Martian technology with duct tape, baling wire, and refuse. It's not the first time it's been done, but at least to my memory those moments in the film were some of the most striking times it's been done. And it wasn't just striking for the juxtaposition of rust and crystal -- it was actually convincing.

And I had fun. Mars Needs Moms pushes everything below Battle: Los Angeles down a notch, and comes in at #4.

Paul, on the other hand, played perfectly to its demographic -- nerds between the ages of 18 and 55 who love science fiction, comic books, and who quote their favorite films during casual conversation. The movie started a little slow (at Comic-Con, which has always been more of a massive pile of work for me than the adventure our main characters are having) but once we meet Paul, the hitch-hiking alien, things pick up just fine. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are wonderful, as usual.

I must confess to no small degree of envy -- they get to write a great story and then act in it. That's WAY cooler than writing a comic and then drawing it yourself out of necessity. I'm not complaining, mind you. I'm just pointing out the relative positions of the rungs on this nerdy ladder.

Paul comes in at #3 for me for the year. And for the curious, it earns its R-rating for some very creative and story-appropriate uses of profanity and obscenity -- probably the best such story-appropriate mouthing off since The King's Speech. Which wasn't that long ago, so maybe it's not all that impressive, but at least I don't see any indication that Paul is going to get re-released without the mouthy bits.