Monday, August 26, 2013
Movie Review: The World's End
Nine years ago, collaborators Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and writer-director Edgar Wright made a bloody splash with Shaun of the Dead, a genre-bender that turned the tired Zombie flick on its decapitated head. A few rounds later the team reunited for Hot Fuzz, a gleeful sendup of the aciton-comedy buddy-cop flick infused with dry British wit.
Since then, Pegg has put in some memorable supporting turns in the Star Trek and Mission Impossible franchises, with Wright making the tragically under-appreciated comic book extravaganza Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
But fans of the madcap Cornetto Trilogy – so named for a particular Drumstick-esque ice cream treat that appears in each film – have rightfully clamored for the promised third installment, which arrives Friday in all of its wacky, booze-fueled glory to fanfare and applause.
This time around, Pegg plays Gary King, a semi-reformed drug addict clinging to the memory of his carefree past as a teenage ringleader and rabble-rouser. His idea of a perfect life is one in which he is free to do what he wants, get loaded and have a good time, preferably surrounded by his four high-school chums including Oliver (The Hobbit's Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Sherlock Holmes' Eddie Marsan) and Carnetto co-conspirator Frost as rugby player-turned corporate lawyer Andy.
After some goading by Gary, the five pals reunite on their old stomping grounds to recreate one of the greatest nights of their youth, in which they attempted to bar crawl "The Golden Mile" by drinking a pint at each of 12 Newton Haven Pubs, beginning at the First Post and culminating at the titular World's End. But upon their return, they begin to sense something is slightly off in the sleepy English town and as the night progresses the friends realize that a lot has changed since they all left town.
Its big reveal should be readily apparent to anyone who has seen the trailer, suffice to say that things quickly escalate from a rather run-of-the-mill premise about five high school friends visiting their home town to an all-out display of unhinged madness. It's a style patented by the Cornetto Trilogy, in which plots triumphantly fly off of the rails with a frothy brew in hand in the name of ecstatic absurdity.
The World's End is, to put a fine point on it, hilarious. Pegg's Gary is an obnoxious, belligerent fool who rightly puts his friends on edge, particularly Frost's Andy, who goes from buttoned-up water drinker to shirt-tearing, stool-weilding bada** in the film's 100 minute running time.
But the film also displays a mature use of action cinematography and special effects as our heroes battle a growing army of...spoiler. The World's End contains several scenes of drawn out hand-to-hand combat – compared to the blunt head smashing of Shaun of the Dead or the explosive overkill of Hot Fuzz – which use superb choreography to incorporate Buster Keaton-level physical comedy into the melee.
Wright's precision editing, which makes rampant use of quick cuts and visual gags to set the comedic stage, gives the movie an almost melodic beat as the boys progress on their quest to the World's End and whatever lies beyond.
The film's finale is, unfortunately, a little disappointing, especially considering the near-perfect climaxes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. When our heroes reach the end of the yellow brick road and see the man behind the curtain, it satisfies the needs of the story but left this audience member wanting a little more before he clicked his heels and went home. That sentence should be viewed more as praise than criticism, as the most disappointing thing about the film's ending was that it had to end at all.
*Hot Fuzz opens wide in theaters on Friday, Aug. 23