Recently, in the back seat of my car, my older son and his best friend were thinking seriously about their futures:
Friend: So when we grow up, which bar in town will be our hang out?
Son: That Irish pub on Main Street–it’s the most like The Winchester. That way we’ll be set in case we have a zombie apocalypse.
[Ruminative moment of silent head-bobbing-while-gazing-out-into-the-distance ensues.]
Both [thoughtfully]: Yeahhhhhh.
Son [brightly]: Because you’ve got to have a plan!
(Scene: “The Plan” from Shaun of the Dead, Universal Pictures)
Five years ago, when this same son was battling chronic insomnia brought on by “scary thoughts” of aliens and dying, I could never have predicted that our family movie nights would one day revolve around spaceships and the walking dead–and yet, here we are, celebrating birthdays with an opening-night viewing of Paul and using zombie-homage-flick Shaun of the Dead as a future-happiness benchmark. The common touchstone to these family favorites is Simon Pegg–screenplay-writer and star of Paul, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Run, Fat Boy, Run (and ensemble-member in the latest Star Trek film-franchise, to boot).
And now, our friend Simon has come out with a book.
Pegg’s frothy, fun autobiography Nerd Do Well is hitting the shelves just in time for a sunscreen-slathered, poncho-wearing day at the beach, or (for those lucky thousands), perusal whilst shuttle bus-ing to San Diego Comic Con–and my sons and I have had a blast dipping into it together:
- “He met the scarf-y Dr. Who!”
- “Oh, man! Coldplay played at his pub all the time! At the Winchester!”
sucked at had a hard time with those standardized tests in school, too!”
- “Cool! He met Rick from the Young Ones!”
In fact, there are few geek icons Pegg hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting. His list (just off the top of my head) includes: Carrie Fischer, Lou Ferrigno, Gillian Anderson, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Steven Speilberg, and George Romero, among others.
The devolution into name-dropping lists is one of the book’s flaws–but not a deal-breaker, particularly when the name-dropping is followed by a paragraph, page, or chapter of film criticism. Pegg’s analysis of bromo-eroticism in Starsky and Hutch, the merits and flaws of the Star Wars prequels, and the socio-political underpinnings of the original Star Wars films are all spot-on, as are his existential ruminations on the heresy that is fast-moving zombies:
[We used] the zombies as reflections of various social concerns: collectivism, conformity and the peculiar condition of modern city living. I believe it is this metaphorical richness that forms the cornerstone of their continued appeal. It’s why I get miffed at all the dashing around in recent zombie films. It completely misses the point; transform the threat to a straightforward physical danger from the zombies themselves, rather than our own inability to avoid them, and these films are about us, not them. There’s far more meat on the bones of the latter. The fast zombie is by comparison thin and one-dimensional…
My older son, the aspiring writer, ate these discussions up…
In reading this together, we skipped around the book (with me editing out the mildly-salacious bits–the boys can discover those on their own when they’re 40 or so): we’d look at a chapter title, vote on its appeal, and dive into another self-effacing, humorous tale from our favorite anti-hero, agreeing all the while (as Pegg says, himself) that, “Geeking out is always more enjoyable in groups of two or more.”
(Note: I received a free copy of Nerd Do Well for review.)