Very last call
One long, strange and clever night of beer, bros and aliens
If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you’ve missed out on some of the most engaging, thoughtful pop-culture satires of the last decade. While ostensibly nostalgic spit-takes on director Edgar Wright’s favorite obsessions—zombies, buddy-cop action flicks, graphic novels—each of those movies are also rich in subtext and exhibit a giddy joie de pop culture that deconstructs the tropes of whatever genre he is targeting, rebooting them in fresh new ways.
The World’s End is the final entry in Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg’s “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy,” in which each genre at hand is represented by the presence of a different Cornetto ice cream flavor: the red-colored strawberry for Shaun of the Dead; a blue Cornetto for Hot Fuzz and its boys in blue; and the science-fictiony green mint-chocolate-chip served up this time around.
As in the first two entries, Pegg and Nick Frost star, the former as Gary “The King” King, one of those dudes we all know who can’t get over that one shining moment in his youth that symbolized all the potential that the future held, and instead of striding confidently down that path, locked onto that golden moment, becoming increasingly constipated by nostalgia as the years fly by. In this case, The King is obsessed with an unconsummated pub crawl that he and his chums (Frost, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine) attempted back in the day. Now a dissipated loser who still sports his goth uniform of non-conformity (cribbed from a Sisters of Mercy video), The King pulls out of his passive suicide long enough to get the band back together to return to their sleepy hometown and finish that unfulfilled goal from 20 years before: a pint slammed in 12 different pubs over the course of one glorious night.
There’s just one problem: In their absence, their hometown has been cosmically Starbucked, homogenized to the point of becoming a vanilla Cornetto, albeit one laced with razor blades. Aliens using Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a textbook have slowly taken over as part of their insidious goal of intergalactic niceness. The plot here is pretty straightforward, with the boys slowly realizing the threat over the course of chugging their way to the final stop—a pub called The World’s End. It’s not so much about the destination as it is the trip itself, and it’s a long, weird one.
As per expectations, Wright indulges in his own established leitmotifs while at the same time easing from the overt homage to films of the source genre (sci-fi in this case) that marked the two prior entries.
If The World’s End has a weakness, it’s that the self-referential gags aren’t really built upon, and that the first act is a little heavy on forced banter that overreaches for the clever. On the other hand, clever banter is nice in itself, so that’s a small caveat (a very small one).
Actually, Wright’s films are normally so overstuffed with clever gags and witty dialogue that watching them once is not enough. Satisfaction actually increases with repeated viewings. And, while at first blush The World’s End isn’t as completely satisfying as his previous entries, I trust the man’s abilities enough to go out on that proverbial limb and say that once this puppy hits DVD, my opinion likely will evolve.