We have been waiting a long time for this movie to be released, so it's a bit ironic that we didn't get around to seeing it until a week after its release. Life intrudes. But it was so worth the wait! We loved the previous Pegg and Wright projects Shaun of the Dead (aka the romantic comedy with zombies) and Spaced (the best surreal, pop culture-fueled sitcom ever), so it was a good guess that we'd like their cop spoof as well. I was laughing so hard tears came to my eyes. Yes, it was that good.
The first few minutes are a wild ride of "spot the British comedian" with uber-serious, robotic PC Nicholas Angel finding his superb record of accomplishments has made the rest of the force look bad, as his immediate superior (Martin Freeman) points out. Refusing to believe that he would be transferred to a tiny country village for doing well, he asks to speak to his superior's superior, who turns out to be Steve Coogan (uncredited as far as I could tell) who then appeals to his superior, (played by the always wonderful Bill Nighy). The list of who's who goes on and on (some nice surprises, like Bill Bailey), but it's just one highlight.
Of course at the center of the film is Simon Pegg, playing against type, and Nick Frost who has a lot more puppy-like sweetness to his oafish sidekick than in their pairing in Shaun (Ed might have been hilarious, but he wasn't very lovable). While Nicholas has lived the life of the action hero, Danny has only seen the films. Their unlikely friendship builds as Nick tries to learn the ropes of village life and Danny, whose position seems to rest on his father being chief of police, finds he has a lot more to offer than anyone thought.
Which could be any cop/buddy picture, but they're spoofing the whole genre -- and it works. It works because they know the genre, just like in Shaun of the Dead, which was one long homage to their favorite horror films, but also because they make a satisfying story in the genre that is both gut-bustingly funny (whodathunkit? Timothy Dalton is a hoot) and an exciting action film. The attention to detail is key; everything that seems to be there just for a laugh has a payoff, even the casting of Edward Woodward (but don't click that link unless you want a subtle spoiler). As you might expect from the zombie fans, the moments of horror are truly gruesome yet inevitably funny, too.
I highly recommend it -- you'll laugh so hard, but you'll also get caught up in the story. Keep your eye on the swan and don't forget to water your peace lilly.