In 2004, three friends embarked on a journey to both skewer and honor popular film genres. Starting with the romantic zombie comedy (RomZomCom) Shaun of the Dead, then to 2007’s buddy cop action comedy Hot Fuzz, director Edgar Wright, star/co-writer Simon Pegg and supporting actor Nick Frost wrap up the “Three Flavours Cornetto” with The World’s End. And, in many ways, the end is the best place to be.
Playing an aging man with nothing in his life but a history of destructive behavior and faded glory, Pegg’s Gary “The King” King decides to recreate his crowning night in the way many desperate people seek to break from their miserable lives: getting completely wasted! Breaking from recent man-child comedies, King’s perpetual adolescence makes him less of a lovable rascal than a degenerate train wreck that his friends wish to forget. Yet out of pity and their own quiet discontent the friends reunite in their hometown to attempt the epic pub crawl which usher in the greatest night of their lives, or at least of King’s.
From this premise, World’s End pulls in themes of progress, growth and fulfillment and, more importantly, has the friends bicker through sharp-witted dialog until a mid-movie turn finds them thrust into an absurd situation even King’s delusions couldn’t fathom.
While the turn (included in the trailers but not here) is radical, it in no way jars from the story. The increasing ridiculousness furthers the characters and themes organically. What seems a chaotic, messy journey to the titular pub is a tightly organized, masterfully layered comedy loaded with playful fights, creepy effects and surprisingly resonant satire.
As in Shaun and Fuzz, World’s End relies on the filmmakers’ rapport and genuine love of genre. Pegg and Frost’s connection is undeniable, with the former as delightfully flawed and the latter as, finally, the straight man. They, along with Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike, jostle like old friends, while Pierce Brosnan adds hilarious gravitas. Wright packs his compositions with more subtle references than a Greendale Community College classroom and more giddy energy than a dozen joyless summer spectacles.
The World’s End is a film focused on clinging to the past while being forced into the future. As frightening as that distant horizon is, as long as Wright, Pegg and Frost continue making movies together, it can’t be that bad. [subscribe2]