The World’s End is the weakest film in the “Cornetto trilogy” and that’s something worth saying right here, right at the very beginning. It’s also worth following up with the fact that it’s not a BAD film, by any means. It just doesn’t quite reach the brilliance of either Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz. Perhaps that’s because there’s more of an attempt to keep a strong pulse of drama running through the thing, or perhaps it’s just because the central premise isn’t as good in terms of referential geekiness. Of course, this is all subject to change upon future rewatches (director Edgar Wright keeps making movies that take three or four viewings to fully appreciate, so high are the amounts of gags and references).
Some have called the movie self-indulgent and unfunny. I get the first criticism, I really do, but I disagree with it for two reasons. First of all, I didn’t think it was that self-indulgent. Flawed, yes, but not self-indulgent. Second, even if it WAS self-indulgent (which it really isn’t, honest) then the whole gang have earned the right to indulge themselves a bit. This may be their last hurrah, let them do whatever they feel they need to do before parting ways (cinematically speaking). As for the second criticism, by the way, I just don’t understand that. It’s not AS funny as their previous movies, but there were a number of BIG laughs throughout. The audience I watched the movie with seemed to agree, judging by the communal roars of approval whenever something particularly crowd-pleasing occurred.
The plot, for those who have somehow managed to avoid even the most minor details, is a fairly simple one. One man (Gary King, played by Simon Pegg) gets his childhood friends back together to complete an epic pub crawl that they tried, and failed, when they were teenagers. The golden mile. Twelve pubs. It may not be the greatest achievement in the world, but Gary seems determined to do it. His friends (played by Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman) aren’t as keen. In fact, they’re barely friends nowadays. Gary isn’t the easiest character to spend time with. He’s a bit of a . . . . . . I believe the technical term is . . . douchebag. Anyway, as the men make their way from pub to pub they start to realise that something is amiss. Everything just feels too homogenised and sterile. Has their old hometown been “Starbucked”, or is there something more sinister going on?
Here are the things that The World’s End does right: A lot of the gags are great, the majority of the acting is solid (with the notable exception of Pegg, who doesn’t do enough to make viewers believe that anyone would stay in his company for the duration of more than one pint), the special effects are nicely done and Wright shows, once again, just how adept he is at tonally jumping all over the place. Rosamund Pike has fun with her role, although her presence doesn’t detract from the fact that this is, yet again, a movie more about the bond of love between Pegg and Frost than any other players. Small turns from David Bradley, Reece Shearsmith, Michael Smiley and Pierce Brosnan also join in with gusto. The direction from Wright is as energetic and enthusiastic as it always is, and the script that he co-wrote with star Pegg isn’t exactly lacking in laughs (as I may have mentioned elsewhere).
What does it do wrong? Well, it takes a while to get going and the very last 10-15 minutes are, quite frankly, pants. It’s not only the worst ending of the three movies in the loosely connected trilogy, it’s one of the worst endings I can think of in the past couple of years. Thankfully, there’s enough in the action-packed middle section to make everything forgivable. Just. I’ve already mentioned the performance from Pegg, which sticks out like a sore thumb in the earlier scenes that park him in the middle of his peers. And, as silly as this may sound, there’s the way in which the whole film REALLY stretches plausibility. I’m not on about the main premise, I’m referring to the increasingly stupid decisions made by the characters as their situation gets worse and worse. In both Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz the gags felt perfectly crafted, but also perfectly suited to the characters and the situation. In The World’s End it feels as if the guys had a few gags that they wanted to shoehorn into the plot, no matter what. Or perhaps they had a plot that they wanted to shoehorn in amongst the gags. Either way, it makes the film feel awkward and clumsy at times.
The World’s End is a fun time at the cinema. It is, for all its faults, another brilliantly constructed piece of work from a team who always set out to do their best. I have no doubt that future viewings will see the film go up in my estimation (as was the case with Hot Fuzz), but I strongly suspect that I’ll always view it as the least of the trilogy. As far as trilogies go, however, I can’t think of any that are better, which perhaps tells you all you need to know about this finale. It fumbles the ball, but still scores enough points to keep Wright, Pegg and Frost as part of a winning team.
DIRECTOR: EDGAR WRIGHT
WRITER: EDGAR WRIGHT, SIMON PEGG
STARS: SIMON PEGG, NICK FROST, PADDY CONSIDINE, ROSAMUND PIKE, EDDIE MARSAN, MARTIN FREEMAN, DAVID BRADLEY, REECE SHEARSMITH, MICHAEL SMILEY, PIERCE BROSNAN
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX