The short review: Perhaps one of the most anticipated fanboy films of the summer, Edgar Wright’s capstone to the Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End packs in a surprising amount of poignance amidst its considerable laughs.
The long review: It’s been six years since we last saw Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright joining forces to skewer genre cinema and serve it up with a side of pitch black British satire. This makes the subject matter of The World’s End, ostensibly a film about old friends getting back together after a long time, seem all the more fitting. Fortunately for the trio behind the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, their reunion goes considerably better than it does for the quintet at the heart of The World’s End. In nearly every aspect, The World’s End is a triumph, packing in more heart and bittersweet rumination than I expected from a comedy, and is easily one of the best films to grace cinemas this summer. The filmmakers must know this, too, because it feels a bit like a celebration in that it takes a look back at past glories, but ultimately acknowledges that we must press on into the future.
For me, Edgar Wright films are unique in that I appreciate them more and more upon repeated viewings. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy them on the first go-round; I enjoy them immensely. Wright and Pegg’s scripts are dense in a way that rewards repeated viewings, whether it’s picking up on a new bit or a sly reference or tracing an emotional arc that might have eluded you upon first viewing. It rewards looking back, which is funny, given the film’s subject matter. The World’s End, co-written by Wright and Pegg, follows a group of old schoolmates as they try to recapture the glory of an epic pub crawl twenty years prior in their old hometown known as “The Golden Mile.” For the most part, the group (Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and as an unexpected straight man, Nick Frost) has moved on with their lives, plugging away at “respectable” jobs, starting families and generally following the prescribed pattern of how to join the upper-middle class. All but one, that is. Their erstwhile leader, Gary King (Simon Pegg), is a man frozen in time, still wearing the uniform of his youth, a Sisters of Mercy t-shirt and black trenchcoat, and hellbent on chasing his glory days even if it kills him and everyone around him.
The film makes a serious case for nostalgia and navelgazing being a sort of disease that ravages the mind and eats away at a person from the inside out. Case in point: Gary King, a man who is quite literally stuck in the nineties, trapped in the quicksand of his high school glories, and finds himself unable to extricate himself or cope with the modern world. Perhaps we shouldn’t be telling our youth that high school and college are the best days of our lives, as it can promote exactly this kind of behavior, which is played out in hyperbolically hilarious and brutally honest fashion by Pegg.
What Wright and Pegg do so well is take a well-worn genre, in this case science fiction a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and flip it on its head, subverting our expectations by using it as a backdrop against which to tell genuinely human stories with heartfelt emotion and, of course, more laughs and sight gags than nearly anywhere outside of a cartoon. True to form, the film is replete with Wright’s signature quick-cut editing, witty repartee and rapier wit galore, and plenty of fence-jumping to keep the action moving and the laughs rolling even when the film becomes more introspective. It is to Wright and Pegg’s credit that one of the saving graces of humanity is its innate immaturity, which could be read as an clever indictment of the rash of misbegotten manchildren comedic archetypes that dominate the scene.
em>The World’s End is the kind of the film that stays with you long after you’ve left because we see aspects of ourselves in the Five Musketeers. Some days we’re Gary, some days we’re a car salesman — the point is that we can recognize ourselves for what we are and move forward together. If you’re looking to laugh your butt quite literally off of your body and leave with some food for thought, then The World’s End may just be the tastiest flavor of the Cornetto Trilogy yet.
For even more behind the scenes action, head over to the Nerdist Channel and watch my interviews with Pegg, Frost and Wright and Comic Book Club’s video review. What did you think of The World’s End? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.