Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine
Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Directed by: Edgar Wright
The final part of the alleged ‘Blood and Cornetto’ trilogy, The World’s End tells the story of Gary King (Pegg) and his old friends as they re-unite after many years to complete a legendary pub crawl in their home town. It isn’t going well even before they run into aliens, wracked as they are by long-standing tensions, largely brought about by Gary’s behaviour as a teenager and his stubborn refusal to grow up since.
In their previous collaborations, Pegg has played the hero, with Frost the buffoonish, childish sidekick, and both have worked to great effect. Here though, the partnership is reversed, with Pegg playing the man-child and Frost the serious adult. Where Shaun of the Dead had Shaun emerging into responsible adulthood though, and Hot Fuzz showing someone too responsible and serious learning how to relax and enjoy life again, The World’s End has Frost’s Andy as a more balanced portrayal of maturity; not perfect, perhaps too stubborn at times, but more or less satisfied with his life. In addition, for all Gary’s bravado and determined enthusiasm for his life, he’s a far more obviously pathetic – bordering on tragic, by the end - figure than Frost’s equivalent characters in the earlier films. It is a far richer, more sophisticated relationship than anything seen previously in their films, and it’s a joy to behold.
Sadly though, the rest of the cast are given less impressive fare to work with; Freeman, Marsan and Considine are given mild variations on successful business-men, but while each has their own sub-plot to work with, it’s fairly minor stuff, although Marsan’s speech about meeting his childhood bully again is one of the more affecting moments of the film. Pike, as Freeman’s sister, is perfectly fine in her limited role, but the film probably wouldn’t have suffered much if they hadn’t bothered writing her in at all. As it is, she feels like a token female character rather than a necessary or interesting part of the film.
This under-written feel extends somewhat to the plot, which by comparison to Shaun and Hot Fuzz is threadbare, at least up until the end, at which point there’s a bout of exposition that is only beaten thus far this summer by Man of Steel, and that only because it repeated the exposition. The ending is a little out there as well, although admittedly affecting.
In all fairness though, it must be said that the thin plot is probably because Pegg and Wright were too busy writing jokes. I can’t remember a film with a higher laugh per minute rate since Airplane – and it isn’t just the quantity of jokes, it’s the quality. Pretty much every line of dialogue in the first half of the film had me in stitches; in the second half, where there’s more plot and (relatively) character development, the gag rate goes down to perhaps every fourth line, but they’re still crackers.
It isn’t as well thought out as the other two films, and there is a lot of unnecessary flab around the middle, as the gang run into almost every major figure from their childhood, but I have little hesitation in recommending The World’s End as the funniest film of the year so far, and it’s hard to imagine a funnier one in the coming months.