the-worlds-end

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost once joked that Shaun of the Dead was the start of a Cornetto trilogy, named after the three flavors of a British ice cream cone. And now they’ve finished this trilogy with The World’s End, the darkest and most personal of the three. Though it doesn’t compare in terms of jokes, and it’s a little more ramshackle than their previous two entries, the film offers enough laughs and heart to make it an acceptable capper to their work together (though we hope for more down the road).

The Players

The Plot:

Gary King (Pegg) romanticizes his youth and the night he and his four best friends decided to go on a twelve-bar pub crawl, which the group never finished. Twenty years later he gets his friends (Frost, Freeman, Considine, Marsan)  back together to finish it. But while Gary hasn’t grown up, his friends have all moved on, and find him to be a giant pain the butt. They reluctantly accompany him, but his presence starts grating on them until it’s revealed Newton Haven — the town they grew up in — has been taken over almost entirely by robots.

The Good:

  • These Guys: Wright, Pegg and Frost have been working together professionally for almost fifteen years, and it shows. They know what they want and how to get it. That chemistry and trust is reflected on the big screen.
  • Funny: Though this is easily the darkest entry in their work together, there are still jokes, and everyone gets a good moment or two. Simon Pegg is often the butt of the humor, and he plays oblivious and damaged quite well. the dynamic in the film is different, here it’s Pegg who’s the flaky irresponsible one, while Nick Frost plays the settled down, family man of the two.
  • Tone: Edgar Wright is one of the sharpest directors of comedy in the business, and though the movie has fight scenes, and offers the same paranoia of films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the film remains brisk and never gets too weighed down by trying to be too funny or too dark.
  • The Ending: Without getting into spoilers, the conclusion involves a conversation that I found hilarious as it’s the most obvious riff on science fiction films, and the idea of the conclusion is excellent.

The Rewatch Factor:

  • How Does it Stack Up?: I’ve seen Wright’s other films a lot. I saw Shaun of the Dead countless times when it hit in 2004 and usually watch it once a year, and saw Hot Fuzz on the big screen at least four times, and I’ve seen Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World a ridiculous amount,  whereas I’ve only watched this film once. And right now I don’t think I’ll watch it as often as the  other films, but I’ll definitely be giving it another shot (or two). that said, it doesn’t feel like the kind of film I’d want to watch over and over, where the others I’m generally game to throw on if I’m with someone who’s never seen them before. That’s likely because it’s the darkest and most emotional, which isn’t really a factor in the film’s relative quality.

The Less Good:

  • Sloppy: There’s a lot I like about the movie, but the pieces didn’t come together for me as well they have in Shaun or Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg’s character is not very likeable, and the fact that his friends have cut him loose makes sense, but as they come back together, it feels like those are the sort of wounds that may never heal. So the ending didn’t feel earned for me, while this doesn’t have the clockwork plotting of the group’s previous works. Hot Fuzz may be the most emotionally vapid of the three, but there is so much set up/payoff that’s amazing (the goose, the graffiti, the gold man, etc.), whereas here there’s much less of that. That may have been a conscious decision, but when it comes to the finale, it’s just a little off and weird. Perhaps some of these moments play better on repeated viewing, it’s possible I’m missing some details (and these films are nothing if not rich in detail), but I doubt it.

Overall:

This is a solid movie that if it didn’t come from the minds of Edgar Wright,  Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I might have viewed it a little more favorably. This is a solid B of a movie. But as the first two films in the trilogy are two of my favorite films of the last ten years, it feels a little disappointing. I liked it, but I was hoping to love it. And that could be because I’m over-exposed to Spaced, Shaun and Hot Fuzz. Or it could be because it’s a lesser entry. I can’t tell right now, but if you love those movies, this is in a different key, and though it’s similar, it’s also different. It’s the first film that doesn’t directly comment on a genre, so much as use some genre elements from time to time. It’s also focused on someone who’s a complete failure in life, which makes it less fun from the get go, and Frost and Pegg start the film not liking each other, so it takes a while to settle into the film’s vibe. And because of that it’s hard to tell if works best as something that should be watched out of context of their other work together, or as the group’s biggest variation on the things they’ve done before. I unquestionably recommend seeing it, though.

Rating: 8/10

The World’s End opens August 23.

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