Friday, February 23, 2007

Hot Fuzz or Luke-warm Fluff?

I have a problem - I'd like to be a glass half-full person, I really would, but it's just not in my nature.

I was reminded of this when leaving a screening of Hot Fuzz with my friend Miss Deadline. 'Don't be so pessimistic', she admonished me, as I avoided the question of how 'good' I thought the film we'd just seen was, muttering something along the lines that it was 'OK' and had 'some good moments'.

I just don't understand our national obsession with mediocrity, and Lord knows there was a LOT of mediocrity in Hot Fuzz. The film is beautifully acted, with the creme de la creme of British acting talent, high production values and marketing to die for (I heard actor Simon Pegg and his director Edgar Wright on THREE different radio shows last weekend - and I don't even listen to radio very much!).

But someone forgot to write a half-decent script with some actual jokes in it. Of course if your idea of jokes is endless homages to great films of the past, then the film is full of 'in jokes', but if you want actual clever writing, and laugh-out-loud funny jokes there's none to be had. Admittedly I laughed a few times, encouraged by seeing the film in a packed theatre where people were determined to have a good time, but there's something wrong when the biggest laughs in a film are for tired old Carry On jokes that would have been thrown out as being too weak for Are you Being Served? or by the old trick of having an elderly character that's been prim and proper suddenly utter a bunch of four letter words (I mean, how many times has THAT been done?!). Hot Fuzz is a three minute TV sketch stretched out to make a two hour film.

It's depressing to read that the film has made more in its first two days of release than Shaun of the Dead (a rather over-rated, but nevertheless enjoyable, film from the same folks) did for its entire theatrical run. It seems endless hype in the media works, and over on there are four pages of endless praise with comments like 'Funniest film I've ever seen', 'Best British Film ever'. One wants to shout 'But the emporer's got no clothes' to every single daft, mindless rave that appears. How is copying great scenes from other films in any way 'clever' or 'funny'? Anybody can do that!

But it seems I'm alone on this. The latest issue of Empire - a magazine that's becoming more and more subject to a phenomenon that I can only describe as 'Ignore the film. Do we like the people? Have they flattered us with their time?' school of film reviewing - gives Tepid Fluff, as I like to think of it, a four out of five stars rave review, while deciding that the infinitely superior 300 is worthy of just three stars, being all style and no substance, apparently!

So it was a bit of a relief on a day feeling like I've got nothing in common with any other member of the film-going public, to get this week's copy of The Week and discover the lowly rating, averaged across all the mainstream press reviews, of just two stars. Finally, some common sense. The most accurate review comment, I thought, was from The Sunday Times. Cosmo Landesman wrote 'Whereas Shaun of the Dead was a small, low budget gem, Hot Fuzz is the kind of over-indulgent, underwritten work that comes when your first film is a hit and you are handed the keys to the cinematic sweet shop."

Alas, it seems the great 'optimistic' movie-going public are more than happy to be served over-indulgent, under-written fare. I suppose I should just be glad it's not one of the nominations for this Sunday's oscar ceremony! When the likes of Mark Wahlberg are nominated as 'Best Supporting Actor' for a 'no acting required' role, it seems rather odd that Hot Fuzz hasn't done a Shakespeare in Love and bagged itself an oscar too!


Miss Deadline said...

Oh dear, I could tell by the look on your face you weren't overly impressed... I think that the film would have been great as a Christmas Special on TV or sommat.

Ian said...

To be honest, it was better than I thought it was going to be. They'd shown a trailer on Ross' TV Show (the bit where Nick fails to jump over a fence) and I figured "If that's the funniest bit they can find to promote the film they're in trouble", exacerbated by Ross and his audience laughing like they'd heard the best joke in the world.

Glad I went, otherwise I'd be wondering about all those rave reviews, waiting desperately for the DVD. And it's definitely a film you need to see with an audience.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, that was one of the best blogs i've read in a long time, articulate, funny, british. Good show.

That said, Shaun of the Dead was absolutely brilliant and an excellent example of the "sledgehammer subtlety" that makes British Humour so wonderful. It's an excellent zombie film that just sort of pops up in the middle of a romance comedy... I mean come on!

The writing seems like a stream of pop culture references and in-jokes, and it is, but the idea of two british blokes living their ordinary lives having grown up thinking life was an american action film is just so rich with comedic material that I, for one, crack up just thinking about it.

In short, keep up the good work and give these guys another shot.

Anonymous said...

This week's episode of Studio 360, a public radio program about creativity, pop culture and the arts, features a very funny interview with Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. You can listen to it here: