I saw Shaun of the Dead today, treating a friend to the movie and lunch in exchange for having missed the birthday party. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting much from it. The trailers and TV commercials left me with the impression that it would be similar to those "Scary Movie" or "Another Teen Movie" lampoons, trading on vulgarity and cliche in place of commentary or actual comedy. To most people now, and even more so "comedians," parody seems to require nothing more than profanity and absurd exaggeration.
Shaun of the Dead is more than just a parody of zombie flicks. To be sure, it does that well enough; the movie pokes fun at more than one tenet of the genre, and even at the end manages an amusing aside to the movie 28 Days Later. But amusing as the movie may be on the surface, as nothing more than simple parody, there are a number of unexpected, and still more surprising, engaging, subtexts. Shaun of the Dead is really quite clever, and the more you notice, the more you'll enjoy it. The movie deals with some serious issues; relationships, the banality of modern existence and the search for personal fulfillment, and still more than you could pack into a pretentious art film, yet it still feels fun.
The movie is British, so I couldn't say if the actors were well known there, but I didn't recognize any of the faces. Still, a lack of fame didn't detract from their performances, and I think the cast did a good job. There really wasn't much to recommend the score or the effects, but neither did they detract from the overrall experience. The zombies looked dead enough, and it wasn't that kind of film anyway.
Even if you are not a fan of zombie movies, I recommend Shaun of the Dead. It's funny and clever, but there's real substance underneath. If you find there are parts where you're the only one laughing, don't worry. That means you get it.