- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

British filmmaker Edgar Wright has a message for those who cluck their tongues at mindless action movies.

“It’s OK to like ‘Bad Boys 2,’ ” Mr. Wright says. “It’s OK to turn your brain off sometimes.”

Just don’t unplug those synapses during Mr. Wright’s movies.

Mr. Wright’s winning zombie film “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) showcased the writer-director’s sly wit and knowledge of the horror genre.

Now, Mr. Wright takes aim at the traditional cop movie.

“Hot Fuzz,” opening today after raking in plenty of pounds in England, stars “Shaun’s” Simon Pegg as a top cop who gets “promoted” to a sleepy English village for being too good at his job. The town doesn’t appear to need a supercop, but that changes when a serial killer starts bumping people off.

Mr. Wright, in town with “Fuzz” stars Mr. Pegg (who co-wrote “Fuzz” as well as “Shaun”) and Nick Frost, doesn’t want to call his features spoofs.

“We think of them as funny forms within that genre,” says Mr. Wright, whose faux “trailer” mocking haunted house horrors was the wittiest of the parodies sandwiched between the two halves of the recent “Grindhouse” double feature. “The overriding jokes are watching bobbies in a picture-postcard rural setting.”

Mr. Pegg says his character, Nicholas Angel, could have been cut from the Dirty Harry cloth.

Big gun. Bigger attitude.

Instead, Sgt. Angel does everything by the book.

“We thought it’d be funny to follow the straight-laced guy,” Mr. Pegg says.

The “Scary Movie” franchise reinvigorated the movie parody genre pioneered in the 1970s by Mel Brooks and later reheated by the Zucker brothers, among others. Mr. Wright’s films aren’t gunning for that terrain.

“Hot Fuzz” is “a straight genre film that just so happens to be funny,” he says, rather than replicating sequences from popular movies. “Ours is a love letter to an entire genre. It’s done with love, not ridicule.”

Or, as Mr. Pegg puts it: “It’s harder to celebrate a film like ‘Bad Boys 2’ than mock it.”

Mr. Wright first worked with Mr. Pegg and Mr. Frost on “Spaced,” a British series about a pair of slackers who pretend to be a couple to get a discount on a flat. The show lasted but two short seasons, hardly atypical for programs across the pond.

But the show helped cement the trio’s rise to comedy stardom.

The series’ cult following stateside, combined with “Shaun’s” appeal, made early “Hot Fuzz” screenings a very hot ticket.

A “Fuzz” showing late last month at the Arlington Cinema N Drafthouse drew people from as far away as Pittsburgh.

The trio credits “Shaun’s” DVD success for the attention.

“We have the kind of fans who stress over the details. The people who like [Hot Fuzz] are gonna watch it five or 10 times,” Mr. Wright says. “Hopefully, there are things they’ll see on the third or fourth watch.”

Mr. Pegg understands their fans’ passion.

“Film is evolving as a medium,” Mr. Pegg says. “On the DVD you have a complete version of what you saw on the screen … with all the extras.

“You almost owe it to the viewer to make a film worth watching more than once,” Mr. Pegg says.

Working together makes such comedy possible, at least for this trio.

Mr. Frost, seen most recently in the British dramedy “Kinky Boots,” has been best mates with Mr. Pegg for 15 years. They know what cracks each other up.

“We had exactly the same sense of humor, more or less. We never have to explain to one another about anything,” Mr. Frost says.

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