5 essential, apocalypse-sparing Simon Pegg films
When the chips are down — when the zombies are closing in or bad guys hatch their master plan, or the world perhaps is ending — who do you most want to have your back?
Oddly enough, probably Simon Pegg.
The affable British comedic actor, 43, has teamed up with director Edgar Wright for “The World's End,” the third film in the pair's Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (a trio of comedies so named for featuring Cornetto ice cream). And if Pegg can't save his buddies from the apocalypse in this sci-fi-flavored venture, at least they'll go down laughing. Here are five other Pegg performances that will have you chuckling in the face of certain doom.
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004): Pegg and Wright hit it out of the park with their first film collaboration, a riotous zombie flick that dials back the social commentary and ramps up the pastiche, paying loving homage to the zombie films of yore while being a great zombie film itself. Pegg stars as Shaun, a pitiable slacker with loser friends and a dead-end job who's just trying to win his girlfriend back — during a zombie attack. He may be a screwup, but there's no one else you'd rather have wield a cricket bat in your defense. The first (and so far funniest) film of the Cornetto trilogy.
“Hot Fuzz” (2007): The duo paired up again for the second film in the trilogy and achieved the seemingly impossible feat of improving upon the formula that made “Shaun of the Dead” such a treat. Pegg plays police Officer Nicholas Angel, a Type-A overachiever paired up with a Type-B buffoon (frequent co-star Nick Frost) in a seemingly idyllic rural town. The subsequent uncovering of a dastardly plot is a cinephile's dream, drawing on action, buddy-comedy and horror-movie tropes — not just referencing but appropriating them with thrilling results. It's the smartest movie to ever make the case for “Point Break” and “Bad Boys II.”
“Star Trek” (2009) and “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013): Good casting is key to rebooting a beloved franchise, and franchises don't get more beloved than this one. Luckily, J.J. Abrams and crew mostly nailed that part, from Chris Pine's swaggering Captain Kirk to Pegg's sarcastic Scotty. Pegg puts a broadly comic spin on the Scottish engineer made famous by James Doohan with madcap results. The ship — and the franchise's legacy — is in good hands.
“Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (2011): Even the most ardent Tom Cruise detractors have to admit that the most recent addition to the “Mission: Impossible” series was a pretty fun popcorn flick, and that's in no small part due to Pegg's role as Benji Dunn, resident nerd and IT guru behind Ethan Hunt's (Cruise) escapades. He's the perfect comedic foil for Cruise's super-serious mien, providing the picture with some much-needed levity.
“Spaced” (1999-2001): Alright, this one is a bit of a cheat. “Spaced” isn't a movie, but Pegg and Wright launched their careers in television, and this nerdy British sitcom is one of their earliest collaborations, with Pegg acting as star and co-writer. The show, about a platonic pair of flat hunters who pretend to be a couple so they can land the perfect property, is rife with pop-culture references and stylistic homages that would, in retrospect, make the Cornetto trilogy seem inevitable. All 14 episodes are streaming on Netflix, which makes for a perfect lazy weekend of binge-watching.
Barbara VanDenburgh is a features writer for the Arizona Republic.