The frustrating thing about limited-release movies is, among other things, their relatively low screen-count makes actually seeing them in theaters more a chore than it should be. I’m all for waiting for that inevitable DVD release, but some things are just better when there’s a ridiculously big screen in front of you, amazing sound surrounding you, and a theater full of others pathetic fans just like you in attendance. Therein lies the rub, that a film such as Hot Fuzz is definitely worth all the trouble, and if misery does indeed love company, then genius comedy could populate planets.
From the writers, creators, and stars of the funniest romantic-zombie-comedy of all time (Shaun of the Dead, so you know) comes the latest British sensations, Hot Fuzz. For me it was every bit as funny as its predecessor, just facing in a different direction. It plays to the conventions its writers obviously love so well, yet keeps its British sensibilities honed scalpel-sharp. As Aardman Studios was able to achieve with their theatrical Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, certain conventions of your standard Brit-comedy are side-lined in favor of more traditional, Americanized slapstick. But what’s here is still very, very proper English.
So in essence, if you loved Shaun, most likely you’ll love Fuzz.
Of course, what makes something funny to one person may be entirely different for another. Having grown up on a steady diet of British comedy, including Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served, Monty Python, and all the Mr. Bean I could handle, this wasn’t a problem for me. Done correctly British comedy can be transcendent, a magical thing with more layers than any onion, with a considerably shelf life than your standard fare. Done badly and you’ve got an insufferable bore, the likes of which won’t be discussed here foreveryone’s benefit. You’ll thank me later…trust me.
But Hot Fuzz is never dull, and when everything is fired up it’s that magical thing. Stuffed with more exciting British comedians than I’ve seen in years, this is one film that aims to please. As great as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are (Frost running is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen…”Yeah, boy!”), everyone’s spectacular here. Even though they only pop-up to bookend the film, Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy are great, Jim Broadbent is awesome, and before you say “what…?”, that is ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton as the evil grocery store owner. Plus, the film’s every bit as romantic as Shaun was…only more platonic. We all crave companionship, even if our idol worships yields a few false leads. These are real people, alive despite their stereotypes, and I couldn’t help but care for them, and it’s in these relationships the power of great storytelling is most apparent.
But what’s most exciting is how well these guys KNOW the culture that means the most to me. It’s obvious they grew up with a love for the absurdity of everything ’80s, right down to the ridiculous conventions most quality action-fests oozed back then. In every way the unfortunate Last Action Hero went wrong, Fuzz goes right…and right for the jugular. I had no idea the movie would be as gory as it is, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Much like the latter half of Shaun of the Dead, good old fashioned blood, guts and gray matter aren’t spared for the sake of laughs, or good taste. And yes, granny does get jump-kicked in the face.
But it’s all in good, English fun. What’s most endearing about the way Wright and Pegg film these movies is the respectful way they treat these worlds. After walking out of the theater I had a conversation with a friend I went with, and he seemed to feel both Shaun and now Fuzz were parodies of the genres being sent up. While I can see why he’d think that, the truth is probably a lot more interesting. With both movies (not to mention their amazing TV show, Spaced), these guys have created a loving homage to the source material. The first time (yes, it happens more than once) one of the characters shouts “By the power of Grayskull!” I almost wet myself.
Yes indeed, and you can put that smack dab on your poster “So Funny, I Nearly Wet My Pants!”
Though hard-core critics may scoff at the mere notion of films like Terminator or Bad Boys 2 as having artistic merit, the rest of us know better. It’s not as easy creating these alternative realities as it is asking we (the audience) to accept them. Where gravity has little meaning to a well-shot car chase, where space aliens are more real than any politician, and cyborgs can have empathy. It’s a view far removed from the realities we face daily, and cinematic medicine for those craving escapism.
So language barriers be damned, I enjoyed the heck out of Hot Fuzz, and I’ll definitely be seeing it again. It’s far and away the most complete, most realized film I’ve seen all year – comedy or not. While certainly not the spectacle I’m certain most other treats this summer will be, I walked out of the theater absolutely and completely satisfied, and maybe a bit more perplexed than I thought I’d be. These guys have done romantic-comedy-zombie, and now buddy-cop-insane-action better than most of their inspirations could have ever imagined…so what’s next? Whatever it turns out to be, I’ll be there! With BELLS on, baby!
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