Shaun of the Dead

Not since chocolate and peanut butter has an unlikely combination of elements been so enjoyable.  Who in the world would have thought that a zombie comedy would work?  The most amazing part of Shaun of the Dead that it is both an effective zombie movie and an effective movie that mocks zombie movies, along the same lines of Scream.  Especially given the mixed bag of recent zombie movies like Resident Evil:  Apocalypse and the Dawn of the Dead remake.  Heck, Shaun of the Dead even has some George Romero-like social commentary.  Beneath the gore and humor, the film wonders, are some people so bored and disillusioned with their lives and jobs that they are, in essence, zombies?  Shaun (Simon Pegg, The Reckoning, 24 Hour Party People) sure cannot tell the difference.  He is nearly thirty, but his life is one big slump.  He still works as a salesman in an electronics store, and goes to the same bar every night.  His best friend Ed (Nick Frost, Underground) is even more blissfully unaware than Shaun.  He has no job, plays video games, farts, and eats all day.  Shaun's girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield, Beyond Borders, Collusion) is sick of it, and breaks up with him.

Unbeknownst to everybody, televisions in the background are broadcasting pandemonium.  The dead are coming back to life, and everybody is ordered to stay indoors.  Shaun is oblivious to all of this, and just pines after Liz.  Zombies are attacking London, and Shaun realizes that he needs to step up and save his mother and Liz.  Shaun of the Dead is, in essence, about a guy realizing what is important in life.  Director Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the story with Pegg, start with Shaun as an irresponsible slacker, almost a loser.  However, they make him likable, and relatable to everybody.  As he realizes that he can rise to the occasion (or, as the ads say, from his sofa), he needs to discover what it means to be a leader and to be responsible.  Now, if this sounds too serious, rest assured that Pegg and all of his coworkers wisecrack their way through almost all of the movie.

Wright offers a few shots of what seems to be a zombie, but is actually Shaun waking up.  Later, he is so tired as he goes to work that he doesn't realize the carnage around him.  When he finally does, he attempts to rescue his mother (Penelope Winton, Calendar Girls, Iris), while debating how to kill his stepfather (Bill Nighy, Underworld, Love, Actually).  When he finally does find Liz, she brings along Dianne (Lucy Davis, Nicholas Nickleby, The Gambler) and her boyfriend David (Dylan Moran, The Actors, Notting Hill) to form the token group of people necessary in a horror movie.  Now, Pegg and Wright mine some horror movie conventions, mixing them with some surprisingly tense moments.  At one point Liz, a wannabe actor, is teaching everybody how to act like a zombie, and in another, hordes of zombies are closing in on the bunch.  The balance between the inane and the scary works well, like in Army of Darkness

The plot does eventually morph into the typical horror movie, yet it still takes little comedic diversions.  Shaun of the Dead isn't a great movie, but it is a lot of fun in a smart-ass way.  When Shaun and Ed realize they can use old LPs to kill zombies, they debate the merits of throwing various records out from Shaun's collection.  It feels as if Pegg and Wright took the time after they wrote the script to loop back and squeeze as much humor into the film as they possibly could.  Although it's always crystal clear what is going to happen and where the story is going to end up, it is still extremely funny traveling with the band of bickering friends as they slowly go there.

Haro Rates It Pretty Good.

1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and language.

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