Whenever Simon Pegg and Nick Frost appear in a project, cinemagoers know they’re in for a treat. Pegg & Frost have been lauded as one of the great double-acts of comedy, akin to Laurel & Hardy or Hope & Crosby, in part due to the quality of their films. So good are their movies that even the duo’s lesser collaborations, like this one, are superb.
Gary King (Pegg) is a man who has grown old and not up, desperate to re-attempt a pub crawl he did as teenager in Newton Haven, his hometown. He convinces his best friend Andy Knightley (Frost) to join him, along with their three old schoolmates: Oliver (Martin Freeman), Stephen (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan). Upon returning to the village, they meet up with the beautiful Sam (Rosamund Pike) who hooked up with Gary on the night of the last pub crawl.
Whilst making their way through the village, all six friends notice that the town and its people remain oddly familiar, yet no-one seems to recognise them or even acknowledge their existence. Gary soon discovers in a fight that the locals aren’t people at all – they’re robots filled with thick, blue fluid (ink, possibly?) and an appetite for violence. So that they don’t arouse further suspicion from the robotic townsfolk, the boys choose to continue and finish their crawl, acting as inconspicuously as possible. Which is no easy feat for a group of drunks.
The World’s End is the third and final instalment in Edgar Wright’s “Blood and Ice Cream” series, otherwise known as the Cornetto trilogy. The series began nine years earlier with Shaun of the Dead, a satire which combined the tropes of a romantic-comedy with those of the horror genre. This was followed-up three years after with the aesthetically similar, but otherwise unrelated, action-comedy Hot Fuzz. It was the latter film that made Pegg & Frost stars, leading them to appear in the likes of Paul and The Adventures of Tintin.
After finishing with their endeavours elsewhere, the duo reunited with Wright – who in that timeframe had directed another film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World – to work on The World’s End, which was eventually released in 2013. By this point, both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz had received a cult following, and anticipation for the follow-up had reached fever pitch. As of such, the new film was unable to meet these high expectations, but it is still a far better movie than many that are released today.
The World’s End possesses thrills throughout, including plenty of hilarious moments, some truly exciting fight-scenes, and special effects that wouldn’t look out-of-place in a big-budget blockbuster. Its wholly original screenplay is quite clever but, like the other two Cornetto films, it has some predictable moments. Another similarity with the previous Pegg & Frost movies is the obscure cameos, with the most bizarre being Pierce Brosnan as the protagonists’ former school teacher – it is moments like these that only add to the charm.
One of the more interesting aspects of The World’s End is that it reverses Pegg & Frost’s previous routine. In Hot Fuzz, it was Pegg that played the straight-man, no-nonsense Sergeant Nicholas Angel, with Frost playing PC Danny Butterman, the gag-man. Here, Frost’s character Andy Knightley takes the role of the straight-man, one which he is surprisingly adept at playing. One wonders why he doesn’t play parts like these more often.
The biggest drawback of The World’s End is its lead character, Gary. While Pegg puts his all into the performance, his character is very-poorly written, to the point of him being painful to watch – he never learns from his mistakes, nor is he punished for them. Another, less bothersome issue is that Pegg & Frost aren’t given much time to interact, as they are often sharing the screen with other actors; and when they do get the opportunity to do so, it lacks the energy of their previous collaborations.
While The World’s End is not the best film in the Cornetto trilogy – that honour will forever belong to Hot Fuzz – a disappointment it is not. Fans of Wright’s previous work and lovers of British comedy will enjoy the film most, yet those who don’t belong to either camp can still appreciate the smart direction and original story.
This film was previously reviewed for YO Bendigo.