Shaun of the Dead(Universal Home Video, 12.21.2004)
I thought Shaun of the Dead was a bit overrated last summer, a cool one-joke flick that gets its best laughs from that joke within the first half hour. A pair of artful, unselfconscious tracking shots tag along with appliance salesmen Shaun (writer-star Simon Pegg) on a day in the life of a British slacker: pop out the front gate, past that brat with the football, pause to drop the bum some change, into the quickmart for a Coke and an ice cream bar then back home to the sofa where his best friend (Nick Frost) and more videogames await. Of course, the second time Shaun makes this trip, all the urban zombies shuffling along with their eyes glazed over really are zombies but Shaun, a bit undead himself, doesn't notice. And that's pretty funny. Not as funny as when George A. Romero made the same observations about the consumer culture some twenty years ago, without the comforts of slapstick and romantic comedy to soften the bite. But still pretty funny.
So I was surprised to find myself enjoying Shaun more on the small screen. As a distraction from nuking a frozen pizza or folding laundry, its jokey fanboy winks and splatterhouse finale (which abandons all satiric pretenses) are more forgivable. Still, though undeniably fun, Shaun's just not as clever or original as it thinks it is and the DVD package has the same problem: fancy cell-shaded animation menus leading you to lots of self-amused snickering of the "You had to be there" variety.
Click on "Raw Meat" and you get "Simon Pegg's Video Diary," which catches a whole lot of behind-the-scenes nothing, casting tapes, slim special effect and make-up features, Pegg and director Edgar Wright pitching the film with a flipchart, and your standard promo doc. "TV Bits" contains the talk show, MXC-style zombie game show, and "Coldplay" interview in their entirety (it's amusing to see Chris Martin introduce replacements for his eaten bandmates).
The "Missing Bits" -- deleted and extended scenes with commentary -- are noteworthy only for the comic book-style storyboards that fill in plot gaps. As for the cast and filmmaker commentaries, well, they all seem like nice people, but none of them have anything interesting to say about the movie, unless you couldn't tell that Shaun owes a lot to Dawn of the Dead and Body Snatchers. And if you couldn't, you should've rented something else anyway. -- Joey Tayler