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Josh Reviews The World’s End

I feel like ever since the release of 2007’s Hot Fuzz, there have been rumors of a third cinematic collaboration between Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, a third and final installment in their jokingly-named “Cornetto Trilogy.”  (Both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz featured gags about that British ice cream treat, leading Mr. Wright to humorously coin that title for their collaborations.)  I was a little luke-warm on Hot Fuzz (click here for my review), but I love Shaun of the dead, and I think that Spaced (the British TV show the three men first collaborated on) is one of the greatest things ever.  (I watched the series when it was released on DVD in the States several years ago, and I loved it immediately — click here for my review of the series.)

And so I was excited by the news of a new movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.  And I am pleased to report that The World’s End does not disappoint!

Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who decides to reunite his old friends from the sleepy British town where he grew up.  His goal is to retrace the path of an epic pub-crawl that they began but never finished years ago.  The once-close lads have grown distant over the years, but somehow Gary corrals his former mates into the scheme.  This time they will make it to the final pub: The World’s End.  However, only a few pubs into their journey, they begin to notice something different about the town they once knew.  Is it just that they have grown older, and you truly can’t go home again?  Or are the people in the town somehow not exactly what they seem…?

The World’s End is a very funny film, with wonderful characters and some big laugh moments.  Even more pleasingly, the film feels very much of a piece with Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.  All three of these films are in some respect a parody of a specific genre of movie (first the zombie movie then the buddy cop movie, now the end-of-the-world sci-fi movie), but all three films also succeed at becoming an exciting version of the film they are having fun with.  Shaun of the Dead becomes a pretty awesome zombie film; Hot Fuzz becomes a pretty awesome buddy-cop movie, and finally The World’s End becomes a great end-of-the-world sci-fi movie!

This is one of the most interesting trilogies I can think of, in that it is thematic rather than plot-driven. The three films are each stand-alone stories, with different characters and situations, but there is a similarity in tone — a very specific comedy sensibility — that is found in all three films, and that I really enjoyed.  All three of the films are very funny, but there is also a certain sense of the weird and the bizarre that feels very specific to the films made by these three men together.  There are lots and lots of jokes, but like the preceding two films, The World’s End has a wonderful love of the bizarre and the weird that runs deep through the story.  Perhaps even more than the previous two films, The World’s End goes to some quite bizarre places in the third act.  It feels in many ways like what all three films have been building towards.

Fans of the previous films will be happy to lean that several of the gags that have run through Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz return in The World’s End.  The fence gag is there, of course, and though the film makes you wait for the Cornetto appearance, when it finally comes it is worth the wait.  (I thought that moment was one of the funniest jokes in the movie.)

It makes me so happy seeing Simon Pegg and Nick Frost together again on-screen.  The two have a fantastic chemistry.  They’re both always great comedic performers, but there is something magical when they are on-screen together.  They both play against type in this film, which is fun.  Nick Frost gets to play the successful, buttoned-down businessman, while Simon Pegg plays a leather-jacket-and-sunglasses-wearing hipster.  I really loved the whole ensemble, which includes Martin Freeman (the British The Office, and most recently Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films), and Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum, Cinderella Man).  It was also great seeing Rosamund Pike, who pops up as Martin Freeman’s character’s sister.  I first saw Ms. Pike in Die Another Day, and I thought she was the best thing about that otherwise terrible Bond flick.  She brings a nice energy to balance all the guys in this movie — I only wish she had more to do in the film.  There are also some fun faces who pop up in smaller supporting roles, including a hilarious Pierce Brosnan (it’s a Die Another Day reunion!), David Bradley (Argus Finch from the Harry Potter films), and the voice of Bill Nighy (a perfect choice).

Edgar Wright continues to impress me as a director.  The is more creative energy on display in the film’s first five minutes — a thrilling montage of Gary’s attempt to assemble his old gang — than most films have in their entire run-time.  It’s a fast-paced sequence filled with a visual playfulness that is not only hysterical but also represents an incredibly clever, economical way to convey a lot of information to the audience in a clean, fun way.  It’s a fantastic sequence, one that proves that although Mr. Wright’s films haven’t been the enormous box-office successes they deserve to be — particularly the criminally underrated Scott Pilgrim Versus The World (my favorite film of 2010) — he is one of the most talented directors working today.

As I mentioned above, The World’s End goes to some crazy places in the third act, and I must admit to being surprised at where the ending took us.  Though, in hindsight, having seen how Shaun of the Dead ended, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at all!  I suspect some audience members might not love the ending — it’s certainly an unconventional way to end this sort of story!  I was a little put off by it at first, but after thinking about it for a little while, I sort of love it.

The World’s End is jammed full of creative ideas, great jokes, endearing characters, and all sorts of sci-fi craziness.  This isn’t exactly an appeal-to-all-four-quadrants comedy, but I loved it.

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