Posts Tagged ‘shaun of the dead’

h1

RUN FATBOY RUN (2008)

March 16, 2008

Run Fatboy Run review (aka Fatboy Needs New Nikes)
Run, Fat Boy, Run

Matt: Three stars

Length: 100 min

Taglines:
Love. Commitment. Responsibility. There’s nothing he can’t run away from.

Précis: Semi-enjoyable romantic comedy suffers from a rehashed plot and finishes well back in the pack.

Review by Matt:

Millions of fans become excited when a new film is released featuring English actor and comedian Simon Pegg. It’s understandable. He’s been at the centre of two big comic winners recently: Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Unfortunately, his latest cinema appearance is a reminder that the man doesn’t maketh the movie. Run Fatboy Run is a disappointingly average comedy. So average in fact that at every turn you will be thinking, “Hmm, haven’t I seen this before in ‘Movie X’ or ‘Television Show Y’?” In this way it’s the very antithesis of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which were hilarious self referential parodies of their respective genres.

Simon Pegg is Dennis, an average slacker who shamefully pulled a runner on his pregnant bride Libby (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day. Five years later his running days are over – he’s a fat slacker subsisting on the joy he gets from visiting his now five-year-old son Jake (Matthew Fenton) and having the occasional beer with his grumpy, gambling chum (the excellent scene-stealing Dylan Moran). When arrogant American stallion Whit (Hank Azaria) muscles in on Libby, Dennis is suddenly motivated to prove himself to Libby and re-win her love by running the London Marathon. The only problem – besides his breathtaking lack of fitness – is that the Marathon is in 3 weeks. Dennis needs to train, secure a sponsor and to fend off the smarmy jibes of Whit.

This all unfolds in a rather hackneyed way. You can probably already see the bad-father-needs-to-win-back-love comparisons to a hundred other films (Liar Liar jumped to mind pretty quickly for me). There’s an evil romantic intruder, a little kid who loves his real father, a challenging hurdle to overcome in the end etc. Despite this, Simon Pegg’s comic talents in particular manage to stave off the rot fairly well. There are some mild laughs and, if you like this type of thing, there are a standard array of comical characters to meet along the way who of course return to watch the climactic race finale with us.

There are a few explanations for Run Fatboy Run’s general blandness. Perhaps it’s the fact that it is the directorial debut of ‘Mr Sitcom’ David Schwimmer. His hands-off directing is certainly from a different universe than the explosive visual style of Edgar Wright, who was behind the camera for Pegg’s home-turf pictures. Schwimmer’s camera also needs its comic-timing recalibrated. A number of the film’s visual jokes fall inexplicably flat. I’ve rarely seen a kick to the testicles go without laugh like I have here.

I also indict American Michael Ian Black, the creator of the unenjoyable television comedy Stella, and the original scriptwriter for this film. Simon Pegg reworked the script – including by re-setting it in London – so that Run Fatboy Run could get a release. The result is a strange hybrid. It often feels funny and right when Pegg and the irascible Irishman Dylan Moran are centre screen. Then we get a decent chunk of good comedy. But the film has an irremediable core of formulaic American cinema. I kept wishing that Run Fatboy Run would turn into a genius parody of romantic comedies or of the triumphant sporting underdog film. But it just wants to run the straight and flat route. And it even adds a final insult by slapping us in the face with pair after pair of product-placed Nikes – so much so that “Fatboy Needs New Nikes” wouldn’t have looked so strange as an alternate title. Overall, a big part of the problem will be the high expectations many will have for Run Fatboy Run, but it ultimately feels a bit like eating a big tasteless cookie that has only a few chocolate chips.

Advertisements
h1

HOT FUZZ (2007)

June 24, 2007

Hot Fuzz review
Hot Fuzz

Tracy: Three and a half Stars
Matt: Four Stars

Length: 121min

Taglines:

Big Cops. Small Town. Moderate Violence.
They are going to bust your arse.
They’re bad boys. They’re die hards. They’re lethal weapons. They are…
When the heat is on, you gotta call the fuzz.

Review by Matt:

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are onto a winner with their sharp, satirical and enthusiastic style of filmmaking. In 2004 they dished up the popular Shaun of the Dead – ‘a romantic comedy … with zombies’ – which was simultaneously a comic spoof and loving homage, marinated with a slosh of B-grade gore. The recipe is almost identical for their second comedy film, Hot Fuzz, only the lens is turned away from the zombies and onto cliché-ridden cop films. As with Shaun, Wright and Pegg scripted the film, Wright directed, and Pegg stars. Nick Frost again supplies the supporting buffoonery. They’ve come up with another delicious success.

Hot Fuzz introduces us to Nicholas Angel (Pegg), the hottest of cops. A thief can barely lift a hand in London before Angel snaps it into a handcuff. Unfortunately, Angel’s colleagues are so sick of being shown up by the brilliant bobby that they ‘promote’ him to far away Sandford. In humdrum Sandford the local police diligently enforce the ‘dessert-eating punishment’ they’ve introduced for contraventions of police procedure, but they don’t enforce much else. Their laxity isn’t an issue – the most dangerous assignment in this village appears to be hunting down the escaped village swan.

On top of this tedium, Angel has to endure a new partner, the fat and feckless PC Danny Butterman (Frost). Butterman is obsessed with high-action cop films such as Bad Boys II and Point Break. He’s overjoyed that he has a pro partner to watch his back and he wants to know if it’s true that there’s ‘a special spot in a person’s head you can shoot to make it explode’. Of course it’s not true, because this is the real world of real policing, not Bad Boys II

At least not yet. Turns out that for now, Angel and Butterman are in the same village from a hundred English murder mysteries, where there are all kinds of gruesome goings-on behind the lace curtains. The tedium ends for Angel when he receives a call to attend a grizzly scene where two villagers have been ‘decaffeinated’. These suspicious ‘accidents’ continue, and Angel and Butterman are on the case.

As the duo investigate, the filmmakers delight in genre play, toying with conventions and cheating our expectations. As with Shaun of the Dead, although Hot Fuzz is a funny pastiche, it is also an earnest adventure into filmmaking in the genre. The story and the characters are kept central to the film. This means the pace is slower and many of the gags are subtler than in other spoof films. For most of the film’s length the parodying is woven into a proper and pretty enjoyable story. Watch the way the film lampoons the macho friendships of cop films, for example, by just seasoning the relationship of Butterman and Angel with a sprinkle of peculiar romance. Wright and Pegg are like postmodernists with an itch to deconstruct, but they’re just as itchy to try their hand at the enjoyable excesses of cop films.

This you will see at the film’s finale, when the subtle parodying is usurped by out-and-out Jerry-Bruckhiemer-style excess (a-la Déjà vu). Now it is Bad Boys II at last. Hollywood’s incursion is joyously signalled with a karate kick to the face of an elderly woman (she’s deserving though). There’s a half hour of cliché-crushing madness that is hilariously self-conscious – though if you didn’t see it building up, you might be jolted by its arrival (much like the vampire fest that came out of nowhere in Dusk till Dawn). But it’s a great parody, and it’s funny. And this will probably be the only time you get to see English bobbies diving sideways and firing guns in slow motion.

Hot Fuzz is definitely one of the better, cleverer comedies around. It’s creative, it’s funny, and it has got verve. It’s helped along by its bright acting. Simon Pegg’s mastered the comic expression, and he’s as good at playing the straight super cop as he is at playing a likeable slacker. Timothy Dalton is also better than he ever was as James Bond as the excessively slimy supermarket mogul. Wright’s visual style – the snappy editing and even the comic gore (I say comic, but weak stomachs might disagree) – also sharpens the humour in the film.

Most people should get some enjoyment out of Hot Fuzz. Probably many people will love it cultish-ly, tallying its many film references and send-ups. It’s particularly likely to hit the spot for those who – like the filmmakers – are obsessive culture geeks. Two hours is probably still a bit too long, and I don’t know if it hits the bullseye every time. But there’s so much there, and it’s so lovingly crafted, that you can’t help but enjoy the feast.