MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Can’t Get Him Pegged

Run, Fatboy, Run is a fine movie; it’s simple, entertaining and utterly forgettable. Still, for some reason this viewing experience was a profound disappointment – despite the fact that I knew going in that the film would be a strictly by-the-numbers affair, replete with all of the usual clichés of the tired genre of “lazy good guy beats all odds and wins all.”

The craft that went into this picture is admirable and David Schwimmer proves to be a capable filmmaker, careful with the pace of the picture and always choosing the right angles over the flashy ones. The acting is solid across the board – especially by the supporting cast members – and the soundtrack was quite good. If you were to walk into a theater and plunk down your eleven bucks, you’ll be getting exactly what you paid for. So why did I walk out of this trifle of a film so damned disappointed?

I believe my expectations were artificially raised, as they have been for every one of his motion pictures, by the presence of Simon Pegg. I imagine this will be the case for many filmgoers as there is quite a following for Simon Pegg (and his usual cohorts Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, who sit this picture out). However, what makes this strange for me is that I’ve never really bought into the cult of Pegg (and Frost and Wright). I’ve been happily diverted by the few films I’ve seen him in, but I’ve never laughed out loud at any of his films or felt that he’s created a comedic classic.

This would probably be a good time to mention that I’ve never seen his British television showSpaced which I keep hearing is quite funny, so I’m basing this strictly on the man’s film work; specifically I’m referring to Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the aforementioned Run, Fatboy, Run. All three of these films star and are co-written by Simon Pegg and all of them have great premises that don’t deliver for one reason or another. Yet I have tons of friends who swear by Pegg and idolize the man for being some kind of geek deity; for being the kind of guy who was a Star Trek geek his whole life and jumped at the opportunity to star in the new Star Trek film. He is a hero for a whole generation of film geeks – because he is living the geek dream.

And the man is charming as all hell, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen him interviewed on various talk shows and watched the features on his DVDs and have found him nothing short of entertaining, charming and charismatic. He is a likeable kind of fellow, the sort of guy I’d want to talk to in a bar about the merits of Point Break’s Johnny Utah or my preference for slow-moving zombies as opposed to the lightning fast ones of modern day films. He has a great knowledge of genre films, but alas he has used that knowledge to just add one more genre film to the fire instead of truly subverting the genres he loves.

Films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are too in love with the conventions of the genre to be truly subversive. Instead of satirizing these films, he and his cohorts create a loving homage to those films, exaggerating at every turn. For someone like me who is familiar with the conventions, I get the joke and might even chuckle at the re-enactments of clichés but in the end that’s all they are. Despite their best efforts, there is no new spin that they put on the genre. The big draw of Shaun of the Dead was that it was supposed to be a mixture of romantic comedy and zombie movie, but it is ultimately more the latter than the former. Instead of spoofing, it becomes more of a self-conscious horror film – not unlike Wes Craven’sScream. I think the intent is admirable, but the execution is nothing new.

I wonder if perhaps people are drawn to Simon Pegg because of his charming off-screen persona and that wonderful accent of his. We don’t like to admit it, but we Americans can be swayed by a different accent, especially the British ones that our culture tends to confuse with intelligence. As a result, I wonder if there are people in the States that believe the films of Pegg are smarter than they are because they are so very “British.” This is not to say that I don’t enjoy British humor; in fact, I count the Monty Python films as some of the funniest ever made.

But the thing about those films that I found so appealing was a willingness by the entire troupe to look as silly as possible and while I don’t think Pegg is concerned about looking silly, I think there is definitely a desire on his part to live the dream of playing a hero. In Hot Fuzzespecially, it seems as if Pegg can’t resist the opportunity to play the most bad-ass policeman of all-time and this is fine, but it also deflates a lot of the comic potential of his character.

Which brings us back to Run, Fatboy, Run which is basically Richard Curtis Lite. It’s enjoyable enough, but it doesn’t really do anything different and, like all of Pegg’s previous films, it seems happy enough to swim in the same pond as the rest of the films of its ilk rather than trying to become something special. Pegg himself is happy to play the straight-man and cede the funny lines to the supporting characters, but it makes his character’s scenes with his ex-girlfriend and child flat. The movie only truly comes alive when Dylan Moran is on the screen. I would say that he steals the movie, but a more accurate description would be that Pegg simply gives the movie to Moran, happy to stay front and center but blurry and bland while Moran shines on the edges of the screen.

The reason for my profound disappointment is that I think Pegg is more talented than this. In every one of his films and in his various interviews, there have been moments where I see the comic potential and the sharp wit and I wonder what greatness we’d be seeing if he exerted a bit more energy trying to hone that potential rather than trudging through retreads. MaybeSpaced will change my mind and completely alter my perception of what Simon Pegg is capable of, but as of this moment I think the best work I’ve seen him do was in Jake Platrow’s The Good Night.

He plays the “best friend” character in that film, but he brings something different to the part. It’s not a cliché, it’s not “easy”, it’s something simultaneously broad and grim, something that I could relate to and laugh at. He’s proven to me with that performance that he can do great work in small parts; now I just want to see him do the same thing in leading roles. I want so badly to join the cult of Simon Pegg and I hope to do so in the future; I just hope Pegg gives me a reason to.

– Noah Forrest
April 1, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon