The World’s End
Release: Thursday, August 22, 2013 (limited)
All this charming British camaraderie had to come to an end some time. The triumvirate of genius creators Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost decided that it would do so during a pub crawl. Typical blokes, they are. Fortunately, their keen sense for blending outrageous satire with an interesting, heartfelt story doesn’t fail them here, either, for their third and final installment in their “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.”
Wright returns to direct the giddy pair of Brits in The World’s End, another delightful satire in which a group of lifelong buddies led by Gary King (Pegg) attempts to conquer the Golden Mile — a goal they had all had as youngsters** to drink a pint at each of the 12 pubs located in their hometown of Newton Haven. But as they make their last attempt at this epic night, strange things begin to happen around them and they realize that now that they’ve returned to their childhood, everyone — and everything — seems to be just a little bit. . . . off.
There will be debate until the world’s end about whether or not this film is “the best” out of the three — or even, which one in this pack of comedies actually gets that distinction. Regardless of the superlative, its quite obvious that these fellows consciously put forth quite the effort to provide another quality product, even if they might not have broken new ground necessarily. They could have easily said ‘Sod it, let’s make an easy cash-grab,’ and when they walked away from the set, their credibility may still have been more-or-less in tact. . . .the next big project (another Star Trek for Pegg, perhaps?) laying in wait. However, this was absolutely not the case with the final installment here.
There’s a certain intelligence that underlies this trilogy of goofy outings that seems missing from a great many comedies. With Shaun of the Dead, they completely flipped-upside down onto its own decaying head the zombie/horror genre itself, making one of the most comical and enjoyable spoofs in recent memory. With Hot Fuzz, the buddy-cop actioner is joyfully challenged with a hilarious twist of its own, as a small-town cop learns that not everything is as peaceful and calm as it first would appear to be. And now, we’ve been handed a film that spins the sci-fi/supernatural thriller in another, otherworldly direction as well.
Because it’s the final film under this particular guise for these guys, the film wastes little precious time in launching us into the headspace of the grubby Gary King, who, after all these years is still as gung-ho about getting smashed with his mates at the pubs in town. Claiming it was one of the formative nights of his young adult life, Gary is
woefully blissfully unaware that life is passing him by. When he goes to all of his mates to see what they think of the plan, they all appear to have moved on and had families, gotten promotions, etc. But Gary looks past it all with a wink and a nudge (and a few amazing throw-away lines) that end up leaving the others indignant and the audience reeling with laughter. Yes, indeed it is Pegg who steals the spotlight in this show. This time it is he who is a little bonkers, at times going stark-raving mad about reliving his memories to the bitter end. “Or the lager end,” as he amusingly. . . muses.
Meanwhile, Nick Frost subdues himself in a straight-edge performance as Andy, Gary’s “former” best mate. As we get into it in the earlygoing, we notice how good the writing here is again: we quickly surmise that the tension between them likely stems from something Gary did long ago; that there is a legitimate reason for Andy to be so ticked off at him from the get-go. Gary’s antics and general manchild-esque demeanor offer no apologies though, and it makes the character perhaps Pegg’s least-amiable one to date. Fortunately, he’s still downright funny in the role, and as the story unfolds, while we can empathize for Andy after Gary’s been seen doing some pretty inane things, it’s much more fun to watch Gary check off each pub on the list, and listen to him wax nostalgic about the good ole days in the meantime.
Filling in the hilarious cast this time around, we have Paddy Considine playing Steven; Martin Freeman as Oliver; and Eddie Marsan taking on the role of Peter. Each contributes often and consistently to the bickering that is ongoing during the pub crawl, all of which is mostly aimed at Gary for his demonstrable lack of concern in doing anything but getting drunk. They’ve all moved on with their lives — most have families, respectable job titles, and such. This actually becomes a steadily more compelling theme as the general atmosphere becomes more and more strange. The limits of everyone’s friendships are put to the test as they all realize that the world around them in a much more general, profound sense, is changing for the worst.
When you throw in a few interesting cameos from the likes of Rosamund Pike (who plays a potential romantic interest for Steven) and Pierce Brosnan (an old teacher from years ago, named Guy Shepherd) the entire atmosphere gets a little giddy, reaching its fevered pitch by the time they all stumble into a pub named The Beehive. This is where the truth of the gang’s reality is set straight for them once and for all, and where a real rift divides in the gang. Unfortunately I can’t say anymore in fear of revealing too much of the goodness, but suffice it to say, this film only gets better (in my opinion) as it progresses. The World’s End is a rare gem in that regard, considering this is also the third film in a pseudo-franchise that, in the hands of anyone else other than Wright, Pegg and Frost, might have worn out its welcome much, much sooner. While it may be bittersweet that the Cornetto trilogy is over, what the future holds for the lot of them is surely nothing less than extremely promising.
I’ll cheers to that one, boys!
Recommendation: For the legions who have loyally followed the journey of the highly-enjoyable Pegg-Frost comedic duo, this will be the furthest thing from a disappointment, or even much of a come-down from the last two films. In a way, the addition of a third film will excitingly fuel further speculation as to what’s next for both the actors and director Edgar Wright, as well as it will ignite controversies over which one of the Cornetto films was truly the most delicious. I loved these films and everything they represented, and it’s a shame to see them go. But at least it went out with a big, blue bang!
Let’s see how my Curtain Call expectations were met:
#1) Yes, fortunately it did remain intact, however — roles were reversed, which made things interesting here!
#2) I am the most happy to report that indeed “the event(s)” weren’t incredibly cheesy. They were just. . . weird. But mostly funny.
#3) Lots of beers WERE consumed. Check number three.
Running Time: 109 mins.
**(Reality check: the legal drinking age in England is 18, therefore high school-aged kids can drink. Because we all know 18-year-olds elsewhere totally don’t until it’s legal for them, too, seeing as though that would otherwise be highly illegal and a bit naughty. . .)