The World’s End – pubs, pints and the end of the world: just your average night out with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright really

The end is nigh…in more ways than one. After the hugely popular TV series Spaced (1999–2001) director Edgar Wright and star and writer Simon Pegg ventured to the big screen with their script for Shaun of the Dead (2004), a self-labelled ‘rom-zom-com’. And this was the start of it all – a series of films that quickly became known as ‘The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy’ or the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’. Changing their choice of genre for their second film they then made Hot Fuzz (2007), a Hollywood action and buddy flick parody. Now, having spent time apart with their own projects, this series finally draws to a close with the last of the trilogy, The World’s End (2013). The genre this time?: sci-fi. But with a big scoop of action and drama on the side too.

One night in the quiet and dull town of Newton Haven 5 school friends embark on a legendary pub crawl called ‘The Golden Mile’. 12 pubs, 12 pints – it’s guaranteed to end in tears. The friends fail to conquer the mile but still enjoy themselves. Trouble is as you grow up friendships don’t always stand the test of time. 20 years later though and Gary King (Simon Pegg) is having trouble forgetting that fateful night. Determined to relive the fun he persuades the old gang, Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan), to take a road trip back to their hometown and finally complete the epic pub crawl. But do you ever get the feeling that some places you used to know just aren’t the same anymore? These 5 friends soon find that this is the case with their sleepy little town as well.

The first two films in Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s self-made trilogy have over the years become classic comedies that are big on laughs, parody and references. They are films that have an essence of Hollywood budget to them but still with an overall British feel. Yes, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have set the bar (no pun intended) very high for the final film in the series. And this is one of the reasons that at times The World’s End seems like a bit of an anti-climax. While it is funny and entertaining to watch at the time, you get the sense that a critical element is definitely missing. And although there are plenty of laughs throughout, some of them very funny as well, The World’s End just doesn’t reach the height of the comedy in Shaun of the Dead. And I think the major reason for this is because of the genre Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have chosen. Sci-fi is much harder to parody than a horror or action film. Both of these genres have countless tropes and clichés ripe for the piss-taking, but sci-fi doesn’t.

The other problem is that the overall idea behind Pegg and Wright’s script is a very weak premise. There isn’t much to squeeze out of a story about friends reuniting and going on a pub crawl, which you can feel while watching the start of the film. The initial scenes of Gary individually visiting his friends to persuade them to join him often seem forced and (even worse) unfunny with more than one cringey joke. In fact the entire first act suffers from a painfully slow start. Yet thankfully by the second act, when it all begins to kick off, the film does start to work and more comedy moments roll in.

This is mostly down to the cast. The World’s End is filled with the usual array of brilliant cameos from great British actors playing quirky characters to provide the laughs. However it is (of course) the 5 main actors that are the best, the most memorable and the funniest. Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan in particular are superb and all hilarious (it’s also good to see Marsan try his hand at comedy when he’s usually the go-to person for gritty dramas). Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who play the main 2 characters in this (as well as the other two films in the trilogy) are also great, as is their usual bromance which translates well to screen yet again. However this time they are both in roles that are very different to the ones they usually play. Pegg who is normally the levelheaded hero is here a washed-up oddball, and alternatively Frost is the calm, collected one when he is usually the eccentric guy. However this switch doesn’t really work due to a combination of not being used to seeing them in different roles, as well as Pegg and Frost looking visibly uncomfortable at times when playing them. This is particularly noticeable in the first act. But as soon as the story starts to warm up, they do too, and they eventually start to become a lot funnier to watch. However the funniest moments in the whole film are when the actors playing the 5 friends are all together. Their years-old friendship is also believable (as well as the pasts they all share) and it is fun to watch as it is rekindled.

Finally drawing their ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ to a close should have been a lot more impressive than this. Yes, The World’s End is very funny after a slow start and it is entertaining, but a weak premise and story that doesn’t really work lets it down. Even when the plot does take a U-turn into proper sci-fi territory the idea starts to feel strained with an overall threat that is (occasionally) clever in execution, but that gets boring after a while. The main 5 actors playing the old friends are great and the overall film has a pleasingly distinctly British feel albeit with the action of a Hollywood flick. And as usual Edgar Wright’s direction is flawless and eccentric, as well as becoming a part of the comedy itself sometimes. His direction is particularly compelling for the fight scenes in which he has the camera follow from character to character in a continuous loop, right at the heart of the action. But even these action moments outstay their welcome after a while. Therefore after watching The World’s End you can’t help feeling that a better idea might have hidden itself in a more fascinating genre choice. Let’s face it though, it was always going to be hard to surpass the first two films of the trilogy, especially the comedy gem that is Shaun of the Dead. Maybe inevitably then this final film in Pegg and Wright’s Ice cream Trilogy ends up disappointingly melting away, rather than leaving anything of a lasting impression…

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~ by square-eyed-geek on August 21, 2013.

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