Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine
Directed by: Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”)
Written by: Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”)
Dating back to their British TV show “Spaced” which debuted in 1999, writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost have been inextricably linked. Their zombie comedy film “Shaun of the Dead” launched the trio into cult status, paving the way for what became known as the “blood and ice cream” or the “three flavours Cornetto trilogy,” a series of loosely related comedic takes on certain film genres. Now, the three have come together to finish off the project by tackling sci-fi elements in “The World’s End.”
In an attempt to finish a legendary pub crawl that was attempted and failed at 20 years ago, Gary King (Simon Pegg), an immature man stuck in the past, gathers his reluctant friends lead them on a of night of binge drinking one last time. As their journey proceeds, memories surface, beer flows and past demons are faced. When an army of identity-stealing alien robots crash their party, the five childhood friends must do everything they can to save the human race (not to mention throw back a few more pints).
In a bit of a role reversal from the first two films in the series, Pegg plays the more immature character while Frost is the straight-laced one. Unsurprisingly, Pegg excels, injecting comedic energy, physical comedy, and perfect line delivery. Pegg is easily one of the best comedic actors around today. For the more buttoned-up character, Frost plays it straight for the first half of the film. But as he loosens up, he shows a surprising knack for fight sequences and becomes progressively funnier. A scene in which he leaves a bar and accidentally breaks the door’s window is the biggest laugh of the year. As for the other three friends in the supporting cast (Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsden), there are some mixed results, but Marsden has the biggest impact, especially as we watch him get soused.
Wright’s signature visual and comedic style is on full display, with plenty of rapid-fire cheeky dialogue, clever wordplay, jokes that stem from unique editing or zooms, and the occasional bit of slapstick. The humor is perhaps a little less subtle than the other films, but in terms of sheer volume of jokes and laughs, “The World’s End” competes for the top spot in the trilogy. Where “The World’s End” is separated from the pack is its inability to successfully have anything to say in terms of the sci-fi genre. Part of what made the first two films so successful is that they were able to poke fun at genres, but also stay convincing and well-executed enough to become worthy entries into the genre itself.
When the night turns more dangerous and alcohol-fueled is when things get amped up. Smashing robot heads in, dismembering limbs, and getting covered in the blue “blood” that follows, the boys don’t pull any stops. Surprisingly, Wright doesn’t opt for the obvious “you’ve got blue on you” reference and connective tissue to “Shaun of the Dead.” While these scenes are well choreographed and entertaining enough, they run their course relatively quickly. The sci-fi elements never feel like a potential genre game-changer or even strong parody.
While Pegg and Wright’s themes work fine in the context of the film and are vehicles for a great performance from Pegg, those thematic elements and more emotional scenes pale in comparison to the themes of arrested development and reluctance of commitment seen in “Shaun of the Dead,” for example.
When compared to the other films in the series, “The World’s End” is a clear rung below “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz.” While it lacks the razor-sharp genre lampooning of its predecessors, it is still quite easily the funniest film of the year so far.