Warning: This article spoils major events in Greg Mottola's Paul, which hits theaters this Friday, March 18th. Bookmark this page until after you've seen the film, then come back and let us know if we missed anything in the comment section.
I realize many of you probably haven't seen Paul yet, but since it just played over at the SXSW Film Festival and a lot of people are getting a chance to see it before its release on Friday, I wanted to debut something I've been sitting on for months now: a list of every major pop culture reference in the entire movie. (You can read my review here or here.) I realize I'm just one man, so chances are I've missed some along the way; this list in its original form will be the ones that I caught, but if I missed any, please leave a comment and let us know so I can update the article. This is the internet after all, and this is a movie site devoted to geeks who love to pore over stuff like this, so let's join together to form the most definitive list of Paul references on the web. Let's get started, shall we?
- While at San Diego Comic-Con, Graeme and Clive see a television that is playing an episode of the original Star Trek TV series ("Arena", for you die-hards) in which Captain Kirk is fighting a green alien named a Gorn at the Vasquez Rocks. This is widely considered one of the worst fight sequences ever put to television or film, and can be seen here if you've never had the pleasure of checking it out. Graeme and Clive later go to the Vasquez Rocks to get their pictures taken, with one of them wearing a Gorn mask and staging a fake battle to recreate the scene.
- After the guys meet Paul, they pull over at a gas station to fuel up for their trip. Paul asks for Reese's Pieces, a clear homage to Spielberg's E.T.
- Speaking of Spielberg, there are a few other shout-outs to The Bearded One in Paul. As the trio walks to the comic shop in a small town, a movie theater marquee can be seen in the background and the movie playing is Duel, Spielberg's first film. There's also a flashback which features Paul talking to Spielberg on the phone, giving him ideas for E.T. while sitting in Area 51 as depicted in Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark (and further explored in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).
- When our heroes enter Ray's Bar, the house band is playing a stylized version of the Cantina Song from Star Wars.
- At one point, Clive is wearing a Ming the Merciless T-Shirt, referencing the villain in Flash Gordon.
- At the RV campsite, Paul tells the guys that Agent Mulder (from "The X-Files") was his idea.
- Graeme's character is an artist, and sketches Paul in the back of the RV as Clive drives. Paul references the iconic scene in James Cameron's Titanic in which DiCaprio draws Winslet.
- The guys dress Paul in a small child's cowboy costume to blend in when they're in a small town. Someone says they look like a family, and Paul mutters, "yeah, the f*cking Friedmans," a reference to Andrew Jarecki's 2003 documentary Capturing the Friedmans.
- In a fireworks shop, the guys purchase a firework called "The Five Tones" which emits the five famous notes featured in Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Heard at the beginning of this clip.)
- In perhaps my favorite reference of the film, Graeme asks Paul where they are going, and Paul responds: "you'll know it when you see it." At the end of the movie, they arrive at Devil's Tower, the famous landmark made iconic by - you guessed it, another Spielberg film - Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The reason I like it so much is that Close Encounters is never specifically mentioned in the movie, so if you haven't seen that film and you watch Paul, you'll probably be pretty confused as to the location's importance.
- A character in Paul (help me out here, commenters) uses the phrase "on a mission from God", which could be considered a reference to The Blues Brothers, a mantra often repeated by Jake and Elwood Blues in that film.
- After the characters arrive at Devil's Tower, they see lights shining through the trees, very reminscent of both E.T. and Close Encounters. Instead of an alien spacecraft, however, it's revealed to be a helicopter carrying Sigourney Weaver's character, "The Big Guy."
- Sigourney threatens the group, asking what Clive is going to bring to the table. Clive - who purchased a sword from the comic shop a few scenes prior - rips it from its sheath on his back and responds, "blind fury!" This is a reference to the 1989 film starring Rutger Hauer as a blind man who fights with a samurai sword.
- Blythe Danner's character yells "get away from her, you bitch!" just before she punches Sigourney Weaver's character, ironic considering Sigourney used that exact phrase in James Cameron's Aliens.
- Sigourney calls Paul "Mork", a reference to the popular TV show "Mork and Mindy," in which Robin Williams played an alien.
- As Paul prepares to take off, someone (again, commenters help!) says "Take care, Short Round." Short Round is a main character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- When Paul takes Blythe Danner's character with him at the end, she says she forgot her toothbrush. Paul responds, "where we're going, you don't need teeth," a clear shout-out to the final line of Back to the Future.
- Jason Bateman's character is Agent Zoil, and there's a big reveal at the end where we find out that his first name is Lorenzo. Graeme and Clive look at each other dubiously and say "Lorenzo Zoil?" I've gotta admit that this one slipped past me, although it got a big laugh at my screening. A quick Google search indicates there is a 1992 film called Lorenzo's Oil directed by George Miller, so that must be what they were talking about. The part that confuses me is that movie is about two parents on the hunt to cure their son's rare disease, and I can't seem to make the connection as to how that's relevant to Paul.
- Bateman's character is talking on a CB radio to Sigourney Weaver's character, and he gets pissed off and shoots the radio. He mutters, "boring conversation anyway," a quote from Han Solo in the original Star Wars.
- Graeme and Clive's comic book is seen a few times in the movie, and the cover is an green alien woman with three breasts. Multiple characters utter the phrase, "three tits? That's awesome." In Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall, Schwarzeneggar runs into a woman at a bar with three breasts.
That's all I found, but I'm sure some slipped past me. Know of any I missed? Sound off in the comment section.