First things first. As far as movie spoilers, I’m going to reveal less of the actual story of The World’s End here than you’ll see in the average trailer. Neil Gaiman went on record saying the viewer is best off going into this one knowing as little as possible, and I agree, so I’m not going to talk much about the story.
Second thing: I’m going to try my best to be objective in this review, but it’s going to be difficult.
See, I’ve been an ardent fan of the work of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead. In fact, I distinctly remember hearing a slightly negative review of the film on NPR back in 2004 and thinking “Hey, that sounds like my kind of thing.” (Thanks, NPR.) After watching and falling in love that film, I moved on to the previously released sitcom Spaced, after which came the follow-up to Shaun, Hot Fuzz, and now this installment, The World’s End.
Together, these three films make up the Cornetto Trilogy. As cool as “Cornetto” sounds, by the way, it’s worth noting that it’s a frozen dessert cone that plays minor parts in each of the three films. I heard Simon Pegg joke on The Daily Show that due to the free ice cream they’ve received as a result of calling it after Cornetto, they now realize they should have named it the Aston Martin trilogy.
These three guys, though.
Of course, they’ve done other work. To name but a few projects, Pegg was in Run, Fatboy, Run, Wright directed Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Frost and Pegg starred in Paul, Pegg has notably played Montgomery Scott in J.J. Abrams’ two Star Trek movies, and Frost even headlined a BBC sci-fi series, Hyperdrive. But for me, it always comes back to when they’re working together, with Wright directing, Wright and Pegg co-writing, and Pegg and Frost acting.
The story of The World’s End is set in motion when Gary King (Pegg) sets out to continue an unfinished 1990 pub crawl, recruiting his friends Andy (Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) to accompany him. Along the way, they run into Oliver’s sister, Samantha (Rosamund Pike), who also happens to be an old conquest of Gary’s. And the quest begins. The characters, all of whose last names are well-suited for such a tale–they’re named King, Knightley, Chamberlain, Prince, Page, after all–attempt to placate Gary by going along with him.
Good so far. But what happens during the pub crawl is what makes this movie special. It’s the same thing that makes everything these guys have worked together on special, actually: the brilliant dialogue, the lunacy, the relentless pace, the impeccable comic timing, and the idiotic, quirky but utterly believable characters. It’s also the part of the story I’m not going to tell you about here. You’ll have to see it yourself or hear it from someone else.
One of the other appealing things about the Cornetto films is the parade of familiar faces popping up throughout. In addition to the main players (Freeman and Considine have been in all three Wright/Pegg/Frost films, though they only play major roles in this one), actors from Spaced and the other Cornetto films pop up from time to time in minor roles. A particular treat in this one is Mark Heap, who played the bizarre artist Brian Topp in Spaced. I also hoped that Bill Nighy, another Cornetto alum, would appear in this one. I wasn’t disappointed.
Additionally, it’s fun to see Pegg play the screwup in this one. In Hot Fuzz, he was the highly accomplished Officer Nick Angel, and in Shaun of the Dead, although neither he nor his pal Ed were much to speak of in the life skills department, Shaun was still the more responsible of the two. Here, though, Pegg’s Gary is everything our parents didn’t want us to be when we grew up. He smokes and drinks too much, and he lies to everyone he knows, yet he has a high enough opinion of himself that he thinks every woman he meets wants to shag him.
Each of the Cornetto films is something of a spoof of a genre, though not like the Scary Movie franchise, which quickly turned into an opportunity for former celebrities to participate in toilet humor and collect paychecks. These are more similar to John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London. Shaun of the Dead deals with the horror genre–most specifically zombies–Hot Fuzz is a sendup of buddy action flicks, and The World’s End is…well, I’m not going to tell you, even though you probably already know from trailers. Just know that it succeeds in the same way the other films do, not with ridicule but by demonstrating that its creators actually love the genre they’re presenting even as they poke loving fun at it–from the inside. And by being damned smart and funny about it.
Folks who haven’t seen the first two installments of the Cornetto trilogy needn’t worry, by the way. This isn’t a trilogy in the sense of a continuing plot. While there are common elements, they feature different characters, settings, and stories.
If you’re a fan of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, you’ll probably see The World’s End. You may have already done so, in fact. Good. Myself, I’ll be seeing it again, in the theater, and when it releases on DVD, I’ll probably screen all three movies back to back. Because that’s the kind of thing I do.
But if you’re not already a fan, give this or any of the other works I’ve mentioned a shot. You’ll thank me. Probably.
Oh, and one last thing. Nutball and the Shifty Twins is an excellent name for a band.
It’s an inside joke. See the movie, and you’ll get it.
(The World’s End is rated R for language and violence.)