THE WORLD’S END arrives next week, completing a collaborative creative trilogy (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, made by Nick Frost, Edgar Wright, and Simon Pegg) and, arguably, the fourth spin on genre classic formats (if you include PAUL). I’m excited for it, although the reviews leaking out have been decidedly mixed. They’ve been quality enough a team that I will float them some optimism.
(On a sidenote, is everyone as tired as I am of these always more or less starting “I hope it is good. I’m hearing no, but I’m trying to be hopeful.”)
So, in a slight break, I’m just going to give quick capsule reviews to the previous projects, noting the genre they fit into. And for the record, it appears END is a sort of STEPFORD WIVES/BODY SNATCHERS merging with the loss of personality and usurping of identity on a complete scale of SNATCHERS and it being robots co-existing alongside the unchanged of WIVES. It is possible they are alien robots, making it even more SNATCHER-esque but I’m not sure on that.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Zombie Outbreak): As discussed back in the WORLD WAR Z Friday Flashback, SHAUN is one of the few examples of zombie fiction (as opposed to zombie fact?) that I truly unabashedly enjoy. In that piece I did mention that part of that was the resolution in which the zombie “plague,” if you will, is actually rather rapidly curtailed. However, a good end would be meaningless if the rest of the movie was not strong and SHAUN is a strong movie. Much of this lies with the fact that the characters in the movie are people, not just soon-to-be-victims or space fillers. We get a feel for Pegg and Frost’s friendship and Pegg’s relationship to his girlfriend played by Kate Ashfield, his mom (Penelope Wilton) and stepfather (Bill Nighy). So when bad things happen to the characters you feel it. When people mourn or make the hard but right choices, it breaks your heart too. Most zombie movies, even the good ones, are munchfests (trademark pending) where terror is the only emotion that is being chased. SHAUN takes the time to be about far more than that, but never stops feeling like a “true” offering of the genre.
HOT FUZZ (Shoot ‘Em Up, Secret Society/Cult/Town with Secrets): Pegg plays a big city copper who’s too serious and dedicated and is thus shipped to a tiny hamlet as punishment. Frost is his new partner, an action movie lover who imagines Pegg must have seen and done it all, especially “firing two guns whilst leaping through the air.” Despite Pegg’s protests that that is not actually what police work is all about, their job quickly descends into those tropes as Pegg’s insistence on being a dedicated man of the law quickly exposes the unlikely but massive dark underbelly of the town. Everyone has guns (and in England besides!), Timothy Dalton is a baaaaaaad man, and this town is loathe to change its ways, brand new top cop or not. It’s smart about being loud and dumb when the time comes, although the ending does drag on just a touch too long. Before then though, it does a surprisingly good job of building the sense that everything here is just a shade off while still leaving it open enough that Pegg’s character might just be a touch too paranoid and overly vigilant.
PAUL (Friendly Alien, Government Conspiracy to Conceal): I don’t know if Pegg+Frost sans Wright equals not good, but here it certainly does. Although elevated by Kristen Wiig as a conservative Christian “freed” from that burden by the revelation of extraterrestrial life and Jason Bateman as a man in black with unclear allegiances, overall it is a hiccup-y disappointment that rarely seems to get in gear.