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Shaun Of The Dead

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Shaun Of The Dead

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Director: Edgar Wright
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genres: Horror, Comedy

*Also starring: Kate Ashfield, Dylan Moran, Lucy Davis, Bill Nighy, Peter Serafinowicz, Penelope Wilton, Jeremy Thompson, Tim Baggaley, Mark Donovan

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

An excited viewer states on the Internet Movie DataBase that "Shaun of the Dead" has "jokes that stem from [social commentary which are] absolutely hilarious but will probably be lost on any non-Londoners. I can't speak for any non-Londoners but me, but the critic cited above is right on the quid. A genre-bender that is part romance, part satire, part zombie-horror and part comedy does not shine on any of the four levels: this critical statement from a guy (me again) who to have been one of the greatest comic programs on the telly. From the title of the movie, it's obvious that Edgar Wright, directing from a script he co-wrote with Simon Pegg, is sending up "Dawn of the Dead" paying homage to horror pictures about the undead and commenting critically on their fellow citizens' habits of work.

The picture focuses on Shaun, who is played by Simon Pegg-- who could easily replace Jay Mohr at Caroline's Comedy Club whenever the American comic is absent. Though Pegg is a funny man, here in the role of a twenty-nine-year old in a dead-end job in an electronics store, the material he receives from scripters Pegg and Wright cannot allow him to rise to the occasion, at least not on this side of the Atlantic.

His pals are quirky rather than comic: loser roommate Ed (Nick Frost), who looks something like George Wendt especially games; girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who's about to dump Shaun because she wants him to take her to more diverse places than the local Winchester pub; Shaun's best friends David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis), with David acting as the company egghead and Dianne the least unusual and therefore the least amusing. Much of the humor is based on understatement. For example, when their London neighbors are increasingly turning into zombies, biting as many citizens as they can in order to increase their numbers incrementally, Shaun and Ed look through Shaun's record collection to throw some disks at the undead who approach them, but are selective even as they face death: "Dire Straits'? OK. Chuck that one at them." When they mortally bop the unlucky zombies who should not have approached, they're on a roll, killing them to the tune "Don't Stop Me Now," a song by a group called Queen (which Americans are likely not to know, thereby making the humor more insular British than worldwide). Other quirky characters who emerge are Shaun's hated stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy), about whom Shaun annoyingly repeats "he's not my dad!" and Philip's loopy wife, Shaun's mother (Penelope Wilton).

A look at the Internet Movie Base turns up a number of rave reviews, even one by the prodigious online critic from the scepter'd isle, Rich Cline. Some interpret the pic as a satire of the British citizenry, who work at jobs or spend hours daily on their video games as though they were zombies. The Austrian Emperor in Milos Forman's "Amadeus," criticized the prodigious Mozart's compositions by citing "Too many notes." For this American, "Shaun of the Dead" has too many genres, none of which is working.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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