THE WORLD'S END Review

It's almost as if Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright were sitting around listening to Soup Dragons, reminiscing and thought what if that were the basis for the characters in the final installment of their Blood & Ice Cream trilogy. So lovingly referred to as this due to the recurring appearance of the Cornetto ice cream treat in each of the films that all began with 2004's Shaun of the Dead. That hilarious send up of the zombie film that was still able to function as a legitimate zombie film in itself surpassed any expectation or American satire that had come about recently. The same could be said for Hot Fuzz, doing for big, over the top, action movies what Shaun did for Zombies. With the third and final film in their trilogy Director Wright and stars Pegg and Nick Frost have not necessarily landed on another genre to spoof, but instead have mixed the formula up a bit while still holding true to the values that made the first two not just funny and enjoyable, but solid films in their own regard. The World's End comes to us in a time when we've had more than our fair share of apocalyptic ventures on the big screen and even this year what will likely end up being the second best comedy of the year (after this one, of course) is This Is The End. While The World's End isn't necessarily dealing with the end of days and is more a reference to the final pub at the end of a pub crawl that exists as a central plot device the name surely wasn't going to go to waste, not when this team of sci-fi loving writers, directors, and actors could layer on a level of the genre in their own film. And yet, while there are elements of those kinds of hokey, early sci-fi epics here the film never makes it its mission to pick up the tone or character traits from these films, but instead use them as a metaphor, a way to re-enforce the heart of the story they are trying to tell. In the end, this way of thinking is what has made these films and the people involved with making them so beloved by fan boys. Not because there are necessarily memorable laughs, but because they create characters we care about and tell stories we can relate to.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is hell bent on finishing the pub crawl this time around.
Twenty years after attempting the aforementioned pub crawl five friends led by ringleader Gary King (Pegg) head back to their hometown of Newton Haven and set out on a path to conquer the twelve pubs and finish what they started so many years ago. What is naturalistic about all of this is that, except for the energetic and frustratingly mad Gary, the rest of the crew isn't too sure about the idea of returning to their roots and going on a drinking marathon. Least of all is Andy (Frost) who has moved on and become a lawyer with a wife and two children and hasn't touched a drink in sixteen years. When Gary makes his rounds to convince the guys that they should head out for one more go at the "Golden Mile" each of them are sure to ask if Andy is going and Gary dismisses the question time and again with a shrug of the shoulders and a definite yes. Andy and Gary were the core of the group though and this is clear from the opening monologue Gary gives us that describes each of his friends. The rest being made up of a plethora of British talent that includes Eddie Marsan as Peter, a squirrelly little guy who doesn't so much go after what he wants as he is simply thankful for what he gets. He was always the runt of the litter if you will and has remained working for his fathers car dealership where he makes plenty of money to support his wife, what's her name? Vanessa. Yea, that's right...and their two children. Marsan has always been a great character actor and though I usually see him placed in serious roles he is doing some pretty broad comedy here and he manages it perfectly. No stranger to comedy though is Martin Freeman (the original Jim Halpert or should I say Tim) who plays Oliver, a straight laced realtor who has a hot sister (Rosamund Pike) both Gary and Steven would like a shot at. Steven, as portrayed by Paddy Considine (and one of many returning friends from throughout the trilogy), is the rival to Pegg's Gary. They were always equally cool, equally into the girls and probably as equally successful at everything they desired to put an effort towards. The difference being Steven grew up to be a well-off construction manager with a young, fit girlfriend and Gary, well, Gary didn't change because he refuses to grow up.

Herein lies the crux of the story that The World's End is telling. There is a theme of youth and nostalgia and the good ole' days that people who have such a good time at one point in their lives and never move past it will always long for. That is the issue Gary is facing in that he was exposed to a world where seemingly anything was possible and all was promised and nothing happened, but he instead became a failure to the standards of society while his friends grew up and were all successful to a degree and for the most part remain content. What I liked about the film is that it didn't resort to the typical cliches of Gary's friends growing up and because they actually decided to act like adults are expected to act are unhappy. Sure, there are problems going on in each of their lives and shortcomings that they'd rather not admit to, but they don't inherently have the regrets, bitterness, or resentment for their current states as Gary does. Gary instigates the pub crawl because he wants to feel young again, he wants to make it as much like the old days as he possibly can and in a way he is out to prove to the younger version of himself that he still has it in him and that he's better now than he was then. You won't get all of that in the trailer and I even hate to divulge so much here, but in discussing what makes this film work so well we have to discuss the heart of the matter that Wright and Pegg were likely going for when penning the script. They do this very slyly by placing the veil of the pub crawl front and center to form a fun, ridiculous event that will also allow for a journey around it in which we can discover the characters for ourselves as well as allowing them to get to know themselves better and learning the lessons necessary for them to live a better life when the time comes. The execution of something like this is very important as you have to balance the tones just right so as not to lean too far into dramatic areas when you've purported yourself as a comedy. There are no worries here as the film is filled to the brim with one-liners and quick wit that will keep a consistent smile on your face. It also combines the small-town, conspiracy elements of Hot Fuzz with the circumstances of Shaun that places unsuspecting people in extraordinary situations that give the film, and the trilogy, a well rounded and complete feeling.

From Left: Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Gary, Andy (Nick Frost), and Pete (Eddie Marsen).
I have always enjoyed Wright's directorial style and each of his efforts are so effortlessly tinged with his unique touch that it is hard to miss. While I still think that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is my favorite of his films, I wouldn't feel inept in saying that this is my favorite, if not the best, of the cornetto trilogy. The way in which the films are edited have created a trademark, but more specifically it is the detail in the dialogue and how he captures it that really brings out the skill. Each shot choice, and subsequently each cut and follow-up shot, are meant to emphasize the words the characters are speaking or elevate the joke they are telling. These are not the obvious jokes or large pieces of dialogue either, but they are the details that matter and that will make the overall experience more memorable and more fun. It is easy to look past what Wright is trying to say here, that what we are watching is nothing more than some friends going out, talking about old times and running into some aliens along the way because what is more popular than aliens right now? Zombies? Yea, but they've already done those. Instead the aliens come along to represent or form an extension of the fear that each of our characters has for some aspect of their life that is exposed along their journey. These aliens are the literal manifestation of the invasion of their fears coming into their life and these guys finally having to come face to face with them. This is done so skillfully because the first half of the film is simply allowing us to get to know the characters and their ins and outs and what point each of them are at in their lives and where they'd like to go. It almost settles into a comfort zone with simply having us watch these people talk before it jolts us out of our seats with the extraterrestrial twist and asks each of the characters to stop talking and do something about their troubles. I love the film for this and Wright's boldness is structuring things a different way so we never know just how things might play out only adds more claps to an already staggering applause.

I truly had a blast at this film and as of right now easily declare it my favorite comedy of the year. What gives it this distinction though is something I've yet to mention and that is the performances of both Pegg and Frost. The two have now worked together several times and their chemistry is something that will never be called into question, but to point out something slightly obvious would be to call attention to the fact they kind of switch roles this time around. Granted, Shaun and Nicolas Angel were two very different people while Ed is to profane what Danny Butterman is to gullible. Still, they were both playing variations on the same character. Shaun becomes the hero and the leader whereas Nicolas always was and had to learn to be more sociable. Ed and Danny could essentially switch places were you to educate Danny a little more and clean up Ed's act but in The World's End Frost's Andy has it all together and is better equipped to be the leader than Pegg's outlandish creation that is Gary King. Both give excellent performances while going against expectations to not only shake things up a bit, but to better serve the story and show us all that they're free to do what they want, any old time.