“To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson
It seems appropriate that the final chapter of the Cornetto: Three Flavors trilogy concerns a group of friends reuniting for the first time in twenty-plus years in order to reclaim a single shot at glory. The team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost always seem to pick up where they left off the last time we saw them, as if no time had passed; just like a good group of friends that have grown up, moved on, and gotten back together to reminisce about the good times over one final pint. Or twelve.
The World’s End is a lot of things: it’s the last piece of one of the best trilogy in recent film history. It’s a brilliant love letter to beer and the holy covenant of what it means to be “drinking buddies”. It’s a hilarious ode to sci-fi movies, in the same way Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz paid homage to the zombie and buddy cop genres. It’s also a story of regret, facing the past, and owning up to the present, no matter how harsh it can be.
Flashback to 1990, when Gary King and his friends were just out of high school, ready to take the world by the bollocks. Their mission: 12 pubs, 12 pints, 1 night. But alas, as nights fueled by alcohol usually end up, the plan fails, falling just a few pubs shy of the last, The World’s End. Citing that one fateful night as the best moment of his life, Gary King orchestrates a second attempt, 20 years later.
King, however, has never been the greatest friend in the world. Sure, when they were young and stupid, the group rallied around “The King”, who saw life as one never-ending party. The beer was plentiful, the consequences were minimal, and the girls were always up for a romp in the handicap bathroom.
But again, that was 1990. While the rest of the guys moved on with their lives before the turn of the century, King still holds on to the past when life was full of promise. An alcoholic, drug addict, and with no prospects for the rest of his foreseeable future, King clings onto that one night like Ahab held on to his hunt for the white whale; to finish the mile would be to justify the last twenty years of his life.
With everyone along for the ride, the men set out for a night of drinking and opening up old wounds. But their hometown, New Haven, is not the same as they left it; rather, there’s a Stepford-ness to New Haven, in a similar fashion to the town of Sanford in Hot Fuzz. It’s not particularly abnormal, but it’s just too… normal. Without spoiling too much, when the men find out what’s going on, they forced to stick together and take on the town in a fight for survival and the next beer.
The most admirable thing about this trilogy, and what makes these films the best parody films in a long time, is that these films are not only funny, but they are also great additions to the genres they are lampooning. Shaun of the Dead, for example, isn’t just a hilarious comedy; it’s a fantastic zombie movie. Likewise with The World’s End, while the laughs are nonstop, neither comedy nor sci-fi action is sacrificed in order for the movie to work. Wright has the amazing ability to balance both aspects in his film and The World’s End feels like the most realized of the three.
Simon Pegg as Gary King is the driving force of the film, and he is fantastic. If you think back to Rob Corddry’s role in Hot Tub Time Machine you can get some sense of where Gary is coming from; the two characters are similar in that they are the unapologetic assholes of the group and both are still not prepared to let go of their youth. Corddry’s Lou, however, is somehow more adjusted than King.
Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan, who each get their own moments to shine, round out the rest of the crew. Like Frost’s Gary, they each have a moment to own up to something in their past they’d much rather keep buried. Steven (Considine) still pines for Sam (Rosamund Pike), the one that got away in high school and Peter (Eddie Marsan) is forced to come face-to-face with the very bully that made his life a living hell for many years growing up. The two get some of the most rewarding moments in the film.
Within the team from the Spaced days, Nick Frost doesn’t seem to get the credit he deserves in the grand scheme of things and in The World’s End he definitely has some of the most hilarious, as well as the most ass-kicking moments in the film. His chemistry with Pegg is undeniable and it’s one of the elements that work so well in this movie. It’s interesting to see the roles reversed in this film. Frost is usually playing the ne-er-do-well counterpart to the (relatively, in terms of Shaun of the Dead) more focused Pegg character, and it’s a nice change of pace to have them reverse roles.
The World’s End has some of the funniest moments of the year, and is one of the most action-packed comedies in recent years. It’s easily my favorite film so far this year and a fine way to cap off this pseudo trilogy.