Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review of "Nerd Do Well", a memoir by Simon Pegg

One usually reads an autobiography because of admiration for the person who wrote the book. So it is disappointing when when one finishes the book thinking less of the person who wrote it.

Sadly, that was the case for me here. I’m indifferent to Pegg’s TV series, “Spaced”. But I’m a big fan of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” and I think Pegg is one of the best things in the last couple of “Mission Impossible” films and the “Star Trek” reboot.

You never can know an actor from his screen persona, but since Pegg had a hand in the making of his Edgar Wright films, his personality is a bit more on view.
Pegg is rather dull at times in the book, which is certainly forgivable. But his editor should have told him that his fantasy sequences interspersed with the autobiographical sections just don’t work. They have funny bits, but the joke runs dry and isn’t helped by crude references.

And his analysis of “Star Wars” (a chapter long) and other films brings nothing fresh that most nerds have not thought of themselves or read on hundreds of message boards. “Harry S. Plinkett” at Red Letter Media and Patton Oswalt have covered this material more thoroughly and with much more wit.

But at times the author doesn’t seem very bright. On a section on VHS films which he watched in his teen years, he writes this about British censorship, “I certainly wouldn’t want my teenage child watching a film that made violence titillating, promoted misogyny or featured truly disturbing imagery. It’s just a shame these sel-appointed guardians of decency lacked the guile and intelligence to distinguish between smart cinematic genre pieces and witless exploitation.” And later he talks about banned films in the UK, mentioning “Last House on the Left”, “I Spit on Your Grave” and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and says “It that respect, it (“Texas Chain Saw”) is far more worthy than either Craven (“Last House”) or Gast’s (“I Spit”) schlocky, unpleasant efforts.”

Pegg seems to have little problem with censorship, but just believes the right people weren’t doing it.

The thing that I found most unappealing was Pegg’s snarky , off hand atheism. He talks about the time he stopped believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and God. He refers to Jesus as “another much loved historical crackpot”. These remarks make Pegg to me like a thoughtless twit.

He regrets telling stereotypical humor in the past, but it didn’t stop him from using stereotypical humor about Christians and rural Americans in “Paul”.

Pegg’s most endearing trait in the book is his continuing adoration of film makers and stars. I was just sad that my admiration of him slipped after reading this book.

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