The World’s End will make more sense if you’ve seen Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, parts one and two of Edgar Wright’s cheekily named “Cornetto Trilogy”. Not that it doesn’t make sense on its own — it does. But it is laced with little intricate details and throwbacks to its predecessors that are subtly placed; hidden from view, but heavy in impact. All three movies are tied together by actors, plot, and style, and each excels in a different area. The World’s End, ostensibly about an epic pub crawl reunion, is the funniest. And it knows it.
It is laugh-out-loud funny, from beginning to end, and some of its jokes pile up so quickly that by the time the last one is over, we’re still laughing at the first. And we are not burdened by silly gags or stupid pranks; we are treated to witty dialogue. Indeed, some jokes are so witty that we can barely catch them. They’re there for a nano second, and then poof! Gone. At one point, there is this exchange between characters: “Are you happy?”. “Yes, of course I’m happy”. “Well tell that to your face”. Blink and you’ll miss it. Sometimes just a facial expression, or a reaction shot of a character is enough to warrant a hearty laugh, and we don’t feel foolish about it either. And then when the movie comes to its sensational climax, we are laughing again, not at something funny that’s happened, but at how ridiculously outrageous it all is. And then we are laughing at ourselves for enjoying every bit of it.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is the self-proclaimed king of Newton Haven. He has a bunch of friends: Steve (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Andy (Nick Frost). In their teenage years they attempted to complete The Golden Mile, an insane pub crawl that consisted of 12 rather suggestively named pubs and bars in Newton Haven. This story is told in retrospect, with Pegg narrating and explaining that none of his comrades were alive and kicking by the time they reached the last pub, The World’s End. I suspect there will be a real pub opening with this name soon, if there hasn’t been one already. This was devastating news for Gary, whose sole goal in life appeared to be this one and only challenge.
Jump forward a bunch of years, and we meet the adult Gary, plopped down on one of those foldable chairs, rambling on to an alcohol therapy group about his glorified past. And then he gets an idea: Reassemble his pals and do The Golden Mile right, all the way to the end. There’s a problem. All his friends have grown up. Steve is in the construction business, Peter is a car salesman, Oliver is a realtor with a Bluetooth ear piece glued to his ear, and Andy is a lawyer. Gary, on the other hand, has his mind loitering in his twenty-something body; he still wears the same long black coat, his hair is still untidy and oily, and he still drives the exact same car he drove for the first crawl. He looks twice as disgusting, and it’s safe to assume that he hasn’t held a stable job since the gang split up. But by hook or by crook, he will get his old friends to join him again. And they do, mostly out of sympathy.
Explaining the rest of the story will take the fun out of it, and it will also give away some plot details that I feel I shouldn’t. What I can say is that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg — co-writers of all three installments — see The World’s End as both a conclusion as well as a summation. It is a sum of its predecessors’ parts, with narrative threads borrowed from both. It combines the zombie-like mob mentality of Shaun with the eerie small town conspiracy of Fuzz, and produces a result that is, in its own weird way, fresh. The writing duo is so good at this stuff that they seem able to produce twist and turn without any effort whatsoever. The movie shifts its tone so abruptly, and to such a gloriously fun place, that we are not even bothered by the change. We are tugged along, arms flailing, but sights firmly set on the end.
And then there are the characters, played by an amazing ensemble of British actors who have no trouble at all pretending to be best buds. Pegg and Frost are solid as always, but the icing on the cake comes from the reversal of their roles. In Fuzz, Pegg is the prim and proper tight ass and Frost is the lazy bum with no goal in life. Here, Pegg is the bum and Frost is the career man. It is like a breath of fresh air, not in any way vacuumed by the presence of Considine, Freeman, and Marsan, who are so comfortably funny that I wish they were my buddies.
Which brings me back to my conclusion that The World’s End, for all its sci-fi exploration and drunkard heroes, works perfectly because it is so funny. I wasn’t expecting it to be so. And it is so brazen with its humour that it almost shoves it in our faces. Just watch the climactic scene closely, and observe the way the conversation between human and non-human evolves from threat to outright mockery. It is so wonderfully written, so well acted, and so crazily executed that a “Cornetto Trilogy” triple header will be knocking on my door before I can down my first pint of beer.
Best Moment | Oh boy. All of it. From the incessant jokes to the explosive finale.
Worst Moment | Oh boy. None of it.