Giving a comedian the benefit of the doubt happens a lot. We tend to laugh at what Will Ferrell just said even though what Will Ferrell has just said is not funny (which is about fifty per cent of the time - and none of the time in Casa De Mi Padre). We do it for no other reason than Will Ferrell has been funny in the past - it's a natural reflex. We like Simon Pegg too, right? He's got charm. Spaced was great. Shaun of the Dead was magic. Hot Fuzz had its moments. So when he's super-glued a carving knife to his hand and is forced to venture into the streets to the laundrette to wash his undies, as he is here, we can assume that it will be at very least amusing. But, like fifty per cent of Will Ferrell's output, the reality is that it's not. Not remotely. What we have in A Fantastic Fear Of Everything is a runner for worst comedy of the year.
Pegg plays Jack, a children's author who has turned to more serious matters – serial killers of Victorian England - and it's turning him mad. Cooped up in his apartment, Jack begins to believe that he is being stalked by would-be killers who want to off him in increasingly gruesome ways, a phobia his psychiatrist (Freeman - Raiders of the Lost Ark's Belloq) pins on his mother abandoning him in a laundrette. When his agent arranges a meeting with a Hollywood type, Jack is forced to go to the laundrette for some clean clothes. But is he right? Is there a serial killer looking to get him?
Kula Shaker's former frontman Crispian Mills, grandson of actor John and daughter of Hayley, has turned to the family business to pen and co-direct (with award winning music video director Hopewell) this comedy-horror that never gets off the ground. Mills has written a script that's heavy on the narration, but Pegg's paranoid thoughts aren't insightful or amusing enough to warrant it. Plus, the tone undermines the character's genuine fears and stalls any attempt of the audience feeling sorry for him, which, even in a comedy is essential. From the get-go we don't care and before long we're irritated at his shrieks and suspicious ramblings. The lack of laughs isn't helped that, bar a restaurant scene and a street scene, Pegg's apartment and the laundrette are the only two sets used, which doesn't even offer us a variety visually.
Almost a one-man show, Pegg is at least committed to the cause but seems unsure if he's playing a madman in a comedy or a madman in a drama. Hampered by the wonky tone, it's neither. There is a chance that watching Pegg's crusty grey underpants swirl through the air to the tune The Blue Danube might garner a laugh but Fantastic Fear has been so dreadful up to that point that not even that benefit of the doubt can raise a smirk.
And don't think this to be an anti-Kula Shaker rant - I own two Kula Shaker albums and an EP. They had some good tunes, alright?