With “The World’s End,” Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost have put a capper on a brilliantly odd little trilogy.
Including “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” this glorious triad of film, dubbed the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (for the brand of ice cream that pops up in the movies), plays in genre-specific sandboxes, mixing in heaping helpings of flair and comedy with just a dash of poignancy.
Each movie was directed by Wright and stars Pegg and Frost (with Wright and Pegg sharing a screenwriting credit) and, in many ways, each is a love letter to the movies that inspired them.
“Shaun” bowed before George Romero’s zombie apocalypse tales, “Fuzz” was an homage to every shoot-‘em-up action movie you’ve ever seen, and “The World’s End” is a tribute to paranoid science-fiction movies like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
The movie focuses on five men who in their teens attempted, but failed to complete, a pub crawl in their hometown.
Flash-forward 20-odd years and four of these childhood chums, Andy (Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan), have settled into middle-aged complacency.
The same cannot be said for the leader of their group, Gary King (Simon Pegg), who over the years has grown apart from his friends, mostly because he is perpetually stuck in adolescence.
Seeing the night of the failed pub crawl as the height of his illustriousness, Gary cajoles his friends into joining him in a return home in a valiant attempt to drink a pint of beer at all 12 pubs, culminating at the final pub on the list, “The World’s End.”
In most cases, this return to try to recapture lost glory would be more than enough to hang a movie on, but this is a Three Flavours Cornetto movie, so things are going to get weird.
Our heroes slowly realize that following Gary on his quest was a mistake, and not just because Gary is an oblivious buffoon. The town’s people seem a little odd and we quickly learn that this sleepy little hamlet is ground zero for an alien invasion where familiar faces have been replaced by mechanized automatons with blue blood and lights that shoot creepily from their eyes and mouths.
Figuring the only way not to draw attention to themselves is to go ahead with the pub crawl then sneak out of town in the morning, Gary and the boys proceed to get drunker and drunker while danger continually closes in around them.
It’s a bit of a slow starter, but “The World’s End” hits high gear and is a whole lot of fun. If you are a fan of the other two movies, you will not be disappointed.
There are familiar threads that run through all three films; such as chaos in a small town, overt movie references, and an inability to hop over fences.
What I think I find most endearing about these movies is that beneath all the hilarity and madness is an underlying theme that subversively makes its point while never stomping on the comedy and action.
“The World’s End” is really about the dangers of nostalgia and how you can never truly go home again, even if there hasn’t been an alien invasion. There’s also some nice stuff thrown in about humanity’s rebellious and idiotic nature.
In a lot of ways, all three of these movies are about growing up even as they celebrate the heights of immaturity. The takeaway message seems to be “you really should act your age, but make a point to have some silly fun from time to time.”
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better philosophy on life.
“The World’s End” is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.