The World’s End, the last outing in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, yet again pairs the filmmaker up with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to tell a tale of everyday men in monstrous peril.
This time, Pegg and Frost play former friends who had a falling out between their teenage years and adulthood. Gary King (played by Pegg) hasn’t given up living the high life of booze and babes. Meanwhile, Andy (played by Frost) and the rest of Gary’s gang (made up by British funnymen Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Paddy Considine) have grown up and left the past behind.
The elusive pub crawl named the “Golden Mile” has been a fond memory of Gary’s, but the regret of not completing the drunken mission to all 12 pubs has always stayed fresh in Gary’s hazy memory. He haphazardly collects his bitter buddies, and the gang heads back to their childhood homestead of Newton Haven to settle unfinished business.
The camaraderie amongst the main men is contagious and supremely funny. The small talk that takes place is sharp witted and observant, while the timing of each joke is on target. Fans of Wright’s Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz won’t be disappointed. The co-writer/director is still very quick on his filmmaking feet and shows his comedic talent is still in tact behind the camera.
However, there’s a slight disconnect in The World’s End that hasn’t been apparent in his prior features – including work outside of this trilogy like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
Pegg and Wright are just as smart as their amusing screenplay. But, when it comes to writing depth in the material focusing on friends growing apart and realizing how reunions at an older age have inelegant moments, it feels as if the two are penning a subject that is slightly out of their element.
I admire the duo trying to capture deeper emotions than the other two comedies have traveled to, but it feels less authentic here. Almost as if Pegg and Wright are guessing as to what those interactions would feel like. The World’s End is nowhere near as smarmy as Dennis Dugan’s Grown Ups films and it’s enormously better than the lager-logged buddy film Beerfest, but it isn’t as stable as it should be.
When science fiction makes its grand entrance into the story, it feels as if Pegg, Wright, and the rest of the production are back in a comfortable realm. One that’s easy for this group to deliver happily hilarious results.
The effects are not as frenetic as we usually expect from Edgar Wright, but they’re just as attractive and wonderfully nerdy. As our merry men face the evils of robotic “blanks”, the action picks up during well choreographed and impressively shot sequences. Sometimes even taking place during extended takes.
There are even moments where Wright emulates the spontaneity and brilliance captured by Monty Python. A revealing scene during the final stretch where the punch-drunk friends interact with a faceless, glowing leader is a prime example of this inspired memorability.
But, it all leads up to an ambitious ending that feels completely out of place. It comes off as Wright and Pegg playing chicken with the movie studio regarding what they can get away with, leading to the studio calling out their bluff.
Looking at the trilogy as a whole, this entry is definitely the weakest and the post-screening reception certainly isn’t lasting. It does, however, have “cult classic” written all over it. Expect this sucker to be quoted at colleges a decade from now or be the inspiration for similar real life “Golden Mile” adventures.
The World’s End is a solid enough comedy that delivers on most of everything it promises. For what it’s worth, I had this same middling feeling leaving the theatre when I saw Hot Fuzz. A couple of years later, I revisited the cop comedy and found it absolutely hysterical. I look forward to watching The World’s End again and seeing if it follows suit on a second viewing.