Want to start an argument? Ask your friends/family/significant other one question;
Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz?
It’s a difficult, bordering on impossible problem equalled only by the Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction conundrum. When asked, many people will mention Hot Fuzz’s high production values, Shaun’s genre-defining comedy or the fact that I really shouldn’t be in their house and they’re going to call the police.
But if you’ve seen all the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost (and Edgar Wright) collaborations, you’ve drawn the conclusion that A: The World’s End is never winning that argument and B: Simon Pegg might be the film industry’s worst girlfriend.
Now it’s not just about the fact that, for a while at least, Pegg’s career was a firework and Frost’s was a Fun Snap covered in piss. It isn’t because Pegg is Star Trek’s new ‘Scotty’ and starred opposite Megan Fox while Frost did something about…Salsa Dancing, I think? Wasn’t there a mini-series on Sky?
It’s because when you look closely at their work, then you realise that their current careers aren’t down to luck or even acting ability. In fact, I think we could all have plotted a pretty decent graph of where they were going right after Hot Fuzz was released.
Let’s start at Shaun of the Dead; when we meet Pegg, he’s a loser with a dead-end job and a girlfriend who dumps him. Then we meet Frost, who’s a loser without a job or a girlfriend of any description. In fact the closest he gets to any female contact is when he mimes eating Shaun’s mum out. It’s clear that Simon Pegg (Shaun) is the protagonist and Frost (Ed) the goofy sidekick and that’s fine. Shaun creates a plan to survive the zombie apocalypse and get his girlfriend back, whereas Ed crashes two cars, puts everyone’s lives at risk and is eventually responsible for the imminent death of his only friends.
Okay, so Ed is more ‘Dangerously incompetent’ than goofy.
But at the end, just as all seems lost, the army arrive and save Shaun and his girlfriend. Everything gets better for Shaun and Ed is left as food for the zombies. Let me repeat that: everything gets better for Shaun, and Ed is zombie paste.
Shaun’s life doesn’t just go back to normal when Ed dies, it actively improves. He’s living with Liz, they seem comfortable and, best of all, Ed’s a zombie now! He can play video games all day without worrying about cleaning or taking down messages. The message is clear; Ed is better as a zombie.
That’s how shit he was as a person.
The next film in the trilogy was Hot Fuzz, and the set-up was slightly different; Pegg was a hardboiled inner-city cop and Frost was his bumbling sidekick. Although less pathetic, Frost’s character is still dangerously incompetent. Although Danny (Frost) had a job and a family, Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is his new sergeant, making their relationship basically the same, with Pegg driving the narrative and Frost playing catch up. It’s implied that Danny actually knew about the murder cult hiding in the town, but was either too stupid, too lazy or too incompetent to work it out for himself. In both films, Pegg drags Frost to the conclusion kicking and screaming, and any character Frost plays can be counted on to fuck it up every step of the way.
But The World’s End was different! Finally, it was Pegg who was the gigantic fuck-up while Frost was a corporate solicitor with a good marriage and his own company. Sure Pegg still drives the narrative, but he’s fucking up all the time, making the audience hate him a little bit more with every bad decision (and shitty line of dialogue). In fact, he fucks up so badly that the aliens who developed all the world’s technology leave, sending us hurtling back into the dark ages. Pretty fuckin stupid, right?
No. Even when Pegg ends modern civilisation, he’s still right.
Frost’s monologue tells the story the same way we tell bedtime stories of adventure and wonder, with awe. The end of the world made his wife come back to him and being forced to eat organic changed his life. All this while Pegg gets his ultimate wish; to live forever with his teenage friends, drinking and fighting like some psychotic Peter Pan.
Even when Simon Pegg ends the world, Frost is still like yeah, everything is definitely better this way. Boy, I sure am glad that guy is around.
And it goes back even further. In Spaced, the fantastic Channel 4 show (which no-one seemed to watch, for some reason), Pegg is the still the protagonist. He has a job and not one but three possible love interests. Frost is just the creepy best mate who drives a van and takes the TA too seriously.
Now I’m not saying that Pegg is responsible for Frosts comparatively small successes. After all, A Fantastic Fear of Everything was no masterpiece. But can we really say that we’re surprised? After all, it was always Pegg that was the leading man. There’s no room in Hollywood for bumbling sidekicks anymore. That’s why we have Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly.
Nick, it’s time to face facts. This relationship is not good for you. I know that you, Simon and Edgar had a good thing going on for a long time, but you’re a great actor and you deserve better than this. No-one wants to be a Jonah Hill. Not even Jonah Hill.