The third and final flavor in the Cornetto Trilogy (named for the popular English ice cream treat that makes a cameo in each film) follows the tradition of picking apart movie genres and adding in comedic elements. 2004’s Shaun of the Dead started the zombie/comedy trend and Hot Fuzz tackled the buddy-cop and fish-out-of-water formulas. The World’s End examines the otherworldly by incorporating elements from 1960s sci-fi movies (Invasion of the Body Snatchers).
Stuck in a state of perpetual adolescence and a destructive cycle of drug use, middle-aged Gary King (Simon Pegg) reminisces of the “good old days” when he was a teenager. Life never was as good as it was on a fateful summer night in 1990, when Gary and his five best friends attempted an epic pub crawl to 12 establishments in their hometown of Newton Haven.
Alas, this “Golden Mile,” strewn with foaming pints and the carefree abandon of youth, was never completed. Gary still believes that if he could somehow finish the crawl and reach the 12th pub, The World’s End, he could find self-actualization. Unwilling to do the pub crawl solo, Gary convinces his high school friends—Real-estate agent, Oliver (Martin Freeman), timid car salesman, Peter (Eddie Marsan), old rival, Steven (Paddy Considine), and former-best friend, Andy (Nick Frost)—to join him in a return trip to their childhood town, down 12 pints, and gain the infamy they always wanted.
The first few drinks prove uneventful, but soon the friends realize that the people in the quiet English town are behaving strangely. They don’t remember Gary’s gang, they sometimes stare creepily as the friends walk on the sidewalk, and their limbs prove removable, revealing a blue, ink-like substance. The townspeople have been replaced by robots (dubbed Blanks by the main characters), but Gary insists that if they finish the Golden Mile like nothing is wrong, they can avoid detection and sidestep getting turned into Blanks themselves. Only eight pints to go…
The writers of The World’s End took a chance when they wrote Gary King as a main character—he’s a thoroughly selfish, unlikable man who is equal parts annoying, smarmy, and charismatic. Simon Pegg pulls off the role marvelously, giving one of his most nuanced performances to date. Gary’s character is tolerable only because he plays off his ensemble flawlessly. The entire cast cranks out wonderful performances with just the right balance between gratuitously over-the-top and subtle. Although the ensemble is quite large, the characters’ reactions, interactions, and relationships with one another elevate this movie above merely being a “spoof” film.
If I had to pick something I dislike about the movie, it would be the fight sequences between the humans and the Blanks, which exhibited a frantic energy but dragged out just a little too long for my taste. The World’s End can work as a standalone film, but I thought that my experience would have been diminished if I had not seen the first two movies in the very loosely tied Cornetto Trilogy. It is a trilogy in a sense that each film builds on the experience instead of extending a specific storyline. The humor in The World’s End is not for everyone and some of the ways the filmmakers choose to execute the story may seem strange or off-putting to those uninitiated to director Edgar Wright’s style.
As with the previous Cornetto movies, The World’s End does something Hollywood finds difficulty in: it offers an original script with interesting characters that had me in stitches throughout. It’s a consistently funny film with sharp, quickly spouted dialogue. For fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this wonderfully weird finale is a must-see.