Review: The World's End
I found the latest movie in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy, The World's End, just as I expected. This is not at all a bad thing -- there's nothing worse in moviegoing than disappointed hopes. (That's not true. Unexpected graphic cruelty to animals is a lot worse.)
But Wright, co-writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost deliver a comedy/genre film along the same lines as their previous two endeavors, and do it very entertainingly, to the point where I hope the word "trilogy" is more of a guideline than an ending.
This time around, Pegg plays Gary King, a burned-out Peter Pan in his forties whose greatest memories are from his teenage days leading a gang of five. He loves to tell the tale of the night they tried to drink a pint in each of the dozen pubs in their small town -- the "Golden Mile" of drinking -- and how glorious it was even though they never got through all 12 pubs.
Gary wants to get the band back together, so to speak, and try the Golden Mile again with his now-fortysomething mates. But everyone else has grown up, particularly his best friend Andy Knightley (Frost), who has become a buttoned-up teetotaler after some event with Gary obliquely alluded to in hushed voices.
The first third of The World's End (named after the twelfth pub) focuses on this lone loser who still wants to be a teenager, and his attempts to recreate his glory days and rekindle his old friendships. And then, just as the pathos is about to feel a little wearing ... the plot shifts sideways. Really sideways and maybe upside-down. With a cherry on top. Just as it did when the zombies showed up in Shaun of the Dead.
Pegg looks truly, realistically awful as the haggard King (no wonder Elizabeth said she was relieved to see him looking so good in the interview) and brings more depth to the character than you'd expect from a comedy. But the gem in The World's End is Nick Frost, playing the bespectacled humorless straight man to Pegg's overgrown child. His character goes through several stages in the film and he makes them all believable. His moves are downright graceful. (Apparently another hidden gem is Brad Allan, the movie's fight coordinator, but you'll have to watch the film to figure out why.)
But it's a pleasure to watch all the actors go through their paces in this movie: Rosamund Pike, displaying a talent for comedy/action I hope to see again and again (Jane Bennet kicks ass!); Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine (need I elaborate? No, you understand); Eddie Marsan, of whom I would like to see more (he's in Richard Linklater's Me and Orson Welles, as Houseman); and David Bradley, whom you might know as Filch from the Harry Potter movies, in a small but significant role. And I haven't mentioned a couple of other actors from previous Wright endeavors whom you'll want to spot for yourselves.
Wright, Frost and Pegg know what works for them, and although we've seen some of these pratfalls and gags in the previous two films, they're still entertaining in The World's End. It's the pleasure I get watching something like Star Trek IV or the Harry Potter films, when an ensemble cast brings back characters you have grown to know and enjoy. Or from most of the Star Trek movies/series (reboot excepted), which follow a certain structure and sensibility that is familiar but not predictable.
The Cornetto trio bring us different characters and scenarios, but the themes and plot elements fall along similar lines. The characters Pegg and Frost play have more depth than in the prior two films, but the resolution relies on easy gags.
I said earlier that I hoped the "Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy wasn't a trilogy, but that's not exactly true. This is a fine set of comedies, but going back to the well again and again might grow tiresome. I want to see more movies with Wright, Pegg and Frost collaborating ... but perhaps venturing into new territories. But in the meantime, The World's End is a fine way to enjoy their considerable comedic talents.