Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A regrettable assumption of poor quality

I'm not sure when it happened, but I have come to think of the appearance of Simon Pegg in a movie as being a surefire indicator of its poor quality.

Maybe not just the appearance, since I'd still say he holds promise in a supporting role. But any time he's the lead? Any time it's a Simon Pegg vehicle? Watch out.

I'm not sure when it happened, but I'm sure how. It happened because Simon Pegg suddenly stopped being able to turn down a role, and suddenly, his face was on every second movie poster you saw.

This is something that has existed in my subconscious for some time now. It became conscious this week, when my wife and I were considering options to watch on our anniversary, which is today. One of those she suggested was Man Up, and I thought to myself with a grimace, "Oh, that's that Simon Pegg movie."

That's that Simon Pegg movie? What?

It's true. This inherently charming Brit who won his way into our hearts with Shaun of the Dead, then never left, has come to symbolize inferior quality for me.

Let's take a step back and figure out how this whole thing happened.

I started to realize that Pegg was fallible around 2007, when he appeared in the highly disappointing David Schwimmer-directed Run Fatboy Run. The bloom was really off the rose the following year with How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, an entertaining book but a terrible movie.

But Pegg wasn't down for the count. His next film was Star Trek, an unqualified hit -- but a film where, tellingly, he played a comparatively minor role. Paul in 2011 was also a big favorite of mine, but he was a co-lead in that with longtime collaborator Nick Frost (as well as, I suppose, Seth Rogen as the eponymous alien). That same year, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol reminded us of his value in a supporting role.

But it's been kind of downhill for Pegg since 2012, in which he appeared in this weird thing that I still haven't seen (though I feel comfortable calling it "weird" sight unseen):

Twenty thirteen brought the second Star Trek movie, which was not as good as the first, and The World's End, which represented major diminishing returns within Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy (I like Hot Fuzz, but it's a big step down from Shaun of the Dead). I suspect I'm in the minority in my thoughts on The World's End, but that doesn't mean it informs my perspective any less.

But the current phase of Pegg's career, the one I find so troublesome, probably started in 2014. Since then, with a few prominent exceptions (among them the latest Mission: Impossible movie, which I also found to be a disappointment), Pegg has started going it alone as the main star of his own vehicles. Granted, I've only seen one of them, but I hated the one I saw:

As you will recall me discussing here.

Since the start of 2014 we have also gotten this:

And this:

And, of course, now this:

To be fair, any one of these movies could be great. I have it on good authority that Kill Me Three Times is awful, but even so, it could be great. (I don't always agree with that good authority.)

The point is, Pegg's choices and career trajectory have now poisoned me against him. A guy I once considered a surefire way to get some reliable chuckles and a good dose of heart can now reliably deliver me neither.

There's definitely some judging a book by its cover here. These have not been particularly high-profile movies, though each has a co-star or two that potentially interests me. (In fact, after In a World ..., I'm as high on Lake Bell as you can probably be.) And Nicolas Cage has surely made twice as many paycheck movies in the same time that Pegg has made this comparatively modest number of anonymous pseudo comedies.

But I don't want to be comparing Simon Pegg to Nicolas Cage, and the fact of the matter is, that's what I'm doing.

So will any of these movies bring me back around on Pegg? Because I want to be brought back around. Really I do.

If you've seen any and care to let me know, please do so in the comments. There's a Simon Pegg out there I love ... I just want to find him again.


Wendell Ottley said...

Except for Kill Me Three Times, which I haven't seen, I've not heard of any of those last few movies you were talking about. Therefore, when I started reading this post I was wondering what you were talking about. I get it now.

Derek Armstrong said...

I think also it was that I learned about a couple of these movies at more or less the same time, and confused them for each other, leading to a greater sense of Pegg's inescapability in what we would have once described as "straight to video" movies.