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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Shaun of the Dead' (2004)

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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Shaun of the Dead' (2004)

Post by Timma1986 on Thu May 05, 2011 9:40 pm



Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy

If I had to choose one word to describe 'Shaun of the Dead', I would use 'ironic'. Ironic not because of its creation, but because its plot itself is the most sarcastic story I have ever seen...at least in terms of films that aren't all out parodies. 'Shaun of the Dead' is a class-action genre blender. Is it a zombie film? Most definitely. Is it a romantic comedy? Not a doubt in my mind. Is it a roast of British sitcoms? I might be able to answer that if I ever get around to actually watching a British sitcom. However, all that being said, the biggest question is...on what levels does 'Shaun of the Dead' work? Is it funny? Is it gory? Is it entertaining? All of the above.

Plot Synopsis (Possible Spoilers Below):
Shaun (Pegg) is experiencing a repeat of every day of his past few years of life. In other words, his daily routine consists of morning tea, work, and chilling in his favorite pub (The Winchester) with his girlfriend and flatmates every night. Said girlfriend Liz (Ashfield) is sick of this. For her at least, it's time for change and a bit of spontaneity. Shaun acknowledges her request by promising to book a restaurant the next day. But of course, this is a romantic comedy. Do boys in rom-coms EVER fulfill their early commitments? Hell no. After his failure, his routine starts out no different than any other day. He walks about half a block to the convenience store, buys a Diet Coke (a slight deviation from his usual choice of Classic Coca-Cola), and remains completely oblivious to the reanimated corpses shuffling all around him...even going so far as to mistake a homeless man's grab at him as a desperate request for some change. His care-free roommate Ed (Frost) announces presence by informing Shaun (from behind a curtain) that there is a girl in the garden. It's not long after this that Shaun and Ed realize that the whole of London is infested with the walking dead! What's the plan then? Why not go rescue his ex, his mum, and seek shelter and safety within the Winchester? Along the way, we may find love. We may find blood. But what we will most definitely see are zombies!

As I said before, irony is the biggest theme of this movie. Almost every single little seemingly trivial action presents a bit of foreshadowing for later in the film. It's not limited to the characters' actions, either. One character (Bill Nighy, for example) may say something that will seem to serve no purpose, but will later be repeated in a different context. For a vague example, I will tell you that the misfortune of a leaking red pen will earn countless comments from passersby, but not nearly as much as blood will. Example Number 2...if Ed gets pissed at his uptight flatmate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) and says, "Next time I see him, he's dead", do you think Pete will be seen in live human form again? If Shaun buys his dear old mum some flowers, tries to win his girlfriend back by giving her said flowers (but forgets to remove tag that says "To a Wonderful Mum"), and then proceeds to throw the flowers away, what do you think is going to happen? If something has an initial purpose in this movie, that purpose WILL eventually be filled. In other words, Mum gets her flowers (just not in the manner you'd expect)!

In terms of genre-blending, never have I seen a film that so masterfully utilizes all of the genres it (sort of) patronizes. If the key to making a good romantic comedy is creating characters that the audience really and truly connects with, then this film succeeds on some level (or at least it has characters that are fun, hilarious, and downright lovable). If the British sitcom sense of humor has any chance of grabbing a foothold on American cinema, then this is the film that should take over. Now what is the key to a great zombie flick? Something new, of course. But alas, the film does succeed in that endeavor by taking itself so seriously that we are no longer being subjected to the overall aura of failure that is present in so many modern zombie flicks ("Survival of the Dead" anyone?). I can't lie. I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed ANY of the old George A. Romero "of the Dead" movies. What's ironic about that? How about the fact that Romero is the one person that this film blatantly pays tribute to? This film is unapologetically gory. The zombies shuffle and no explanation is offered as to how the plague started.

Back to the dialogue. It is simply GENIUS on a comedic and ironic level and even manages to beat out a select few Mel Brooks films. The humor is so dry and and even subtle at times, but is delivered with the utmost assurance of cleverness. One of my favorite lines of the whole film is delivered by Bill Nighy (who portrays Shaun's step-dad), who, after being bitten by one of the walkers, calmly reassures Shaun and Barbara (Shaun's mum; portrayed by Penelope Wilton), "I'm fine. I ran it under a cold tap." Is it the dialogue? Or is it the actor delivering the dialogue? I can't even decide.

This film is so brilliantly cast that I honestly cannot think of a single character who was poorly portrayed. Shaun's mum Barbara is the ultimate definition of 'off in another world'. She's the ultimate "everything will be fine" type of mother. If there's a problem, it stands to reason that it will work itself out. As for Shaun's step-dad Phillip (Nighy), the dryness of every syllable uttered by his character is an obvious wake-up call as to why we Americans love British actors so much. Shaun himself is almost the British version of "The Dude" (Jeff Bridges in 'The Big Lebowski). Although not quite as cool as the aforementioned character, the audience still loves him equally so.

All of the above-indicated critiquing might indicate an obvious 4-star review, but one thing brings the film down and that is staying in one place without change. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the first 2 acts of the film. I love the gags incorporated before and during the plague of zombies. However, the moment the characters succeed in entering the Winchester for shelter, the humor level drops considerably, and because you get so caught up in the laughs, you may find your consistency in staying entertained dropping at a considerable speed. I'm not saying the ending scenes are bad by any means. Perhaps the filmmakers were going for a more serious tone to mirror all the casualties in the pub. But all in all, this is one of my favorite zombie flicks of all time, and even 2009's 'Zombieland' didn't quite surpass this film in my opinion.

Final Consensus: 'Shaun of the Dead' is a hilarious, gory and entertaining genre-blending zombie flick, with a witty sense of sarcasm that could beat out snotty teenagers any day of the week.

3.5/4 Stars
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Timma1986
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Post Count : 21
Age : 23
Location : Las Vegas, NV
Interests : I love acting, improv, and movies. I like to write my movie reviews whenever I go see a new film. I also enjoy reading and playing video games, and occasionally playing basketball.
Registration date : 2011-03-16

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