With “The World’s End,” British director Edgar Wright completes his buddy comedy trilogy (dubbed the “Cordetto” trilogy because Cordetto-brand ice cream is seen in each one) that began in 2004 with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” in 2007.
Aside from their wonderfully zany situations (“Shaun” is a comedy set during a zombie apocalypse, and “Fuzz” is an action/cop comedy) and their not-too-vulgar brand of verbal comedy, the best thing those movies did was formally introduce American audiences to one of the funniest comedy duos to ever grace the screen: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
With Pegg as the confident leader and Frost as the oafish sidekick, their perfect on-screen comedic chemistry is the essence of the Cordetto trilogy. No matter the scenario, they always play buddies whose relationship is tested.
It helps immensely that Frost and Pegg have been real friends since childhood. With their impeccable timing, it never feels like they’re giving performances.
In many ways “The World’s End” is a meditation on the first two pictures, combining the supernatural element from “Shaun of the Dead” with the seemingly idyllic small town setting of “Hot Fuzz.” And while “The World’s End” isn’t as strong as “Shaun” or “Fuzz” story-wise, the comedic interaction between Pegg and Frost is just as great.
Pegg plays Gary King, a man in his early 40s who just hasn’t grown up. On the last day of school in his hometown of Newton Haven, Gary and his chaps attempted a ritual called The Golden Mile, in which one must drink a pint of lager at all 12 of Newton Haven’s bars in one day. Sadly, they couldn’t finish, and this failure has left Gary incomplete, so he has remained an alcohol- and drug-addicted adolescent. His friends, on the other hand, have grown up and gotten normal jobs. Gary somehow convinces all of them to come back to Newton Haven with him for one last weekend to finally finish the ritual.
The first 10 to 20 minutes of “The World’s End” — as Gary anxiously leads the rest of the lads around to each bar like a child — is truly great because it’s like watching real friends having conversations and drinking.
In addition to Frost as Andy Knightley (who hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since a drunk-driving accident), there’s Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan). Their genuine sense of friendship is never lost, even though the picture does get more and more ridiculous as it goes on.
The humor, for the most part, is achieved through rapid-fire verbal comedy that, again, is not too vulgar. There are very few lazy physical-comedy bits, and there’s almost no gross-out humor. And considering that the “Five Musketeers” (as Gary calls them) gradually get more intoxicated as the night goes on ,it’s a relief that the movie doesn’t contain even one vomit scene.
At the halfway point, things take a turn for the weird. Apparently, after the five friends left Newton Haven the town was taken over by an extraterrestrial force. While the residents look normal on the outside, they’re actually blue-blooded, emotionless robots.
The “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”-esque premise isn’t nearly as fresh or inspired as the zombie-apocalypse premise in “Shaun of the Dead” was, nor is the rest of the story as clever as the excellent, multilayered, murder mystery in “Hot Fuzz.”
The first bare-knuckled brawl the five friends have with a few of the robots (in one of the pub bathrooms) is funny and exciting because it comes completely out of nowhere, but after a while the robot fighting gets to be a little repetitive and tiresome. The rest of the movie basically becomes one big, exhaustive chase, as the lads go from one bar to the next.
“The World’s End” is the lesser of the Cordetto trilogy, but considering how great the first two are and considering that this one is still a lot of fun, that’s not much of a criticism. Though the movie contains a wild and outrageous sci-fi premise, the human element — Gary and Andy’s friendship — still remains intact, and we’re reminded yet again that Pegg and Frost are one of the best modern comedy duos.
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