“The World’s End” is the final of the Cornetto Trilogy from director Edgar Wright and writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. A fitting conclusion, it embraces similar themes explored in their first two films “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, that is, arrested development, a major threat to life on Earth, and drinking beer at the pub with your mates. That last one is not so much a theme as the premise of this movie. But not to worry, there is actually more to this film than a pub crawl. Sort of.
20 years after attempting “the golden mile” of 12 pubs in one night, five childhood friends reunite when Gary King (Simon Pegg), a middle aged man who would still list his high school exploits at the top of his resume, drags his reluctant pals to their home town of Newton Haven to once again attempt to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. Taking the phrase “you can’t go home again” to extremes, the quintet try to reconcile past grievances before they realise they have more to worry about than passing out before the final pint and having a penis drawn on their face. The face drawing is not explicitly expressed as something they are worried about, but they seemed like the type that would do that, so they should have been. Regardless, it doesn’t come up. Not when the town has been taken over by aliens.
The cast is superb and Pegg seems very at home as the “cool” guy ringleader of the pack who has just not been able to keep up with the times…or evolve in any way. “What the fuck does WTF stand for?” he screams at one point. He is well supported with Nick Frost as his ex-friend who has gone down the straight and narrow since falling out with King, Martin Freeman as a real estate wannabe with a permanently attached phone headset, and Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine rounding out the group. Rosamund Pike also makes a welcome appearance as she is unwittingly drawn into the night’s shenanigans.
But for all their efforts, the characters are pretty finely drawn, the premise is thin, and while starting off strong the film seems to run out of steam, even as situations get more bizarre. At some point finishing the golden mile of pubs isn’t really a major life goal you can empathise with, even if is representative of a man who hasn’t been able to let go of his teenage self.
As an overall experience the film is very enjoyable, with guaranteed laughs and a bizarre concept. As part of the trilogy it is more of the same, and probably not the best of the bunch. While “Shaun of the Dead” was also pretty light in plot, it seemed to have more to say about the banality of adult life. Here the hero is more indulged than identifiable. But if you liked the first two films you will no doubt like this one. A worthy finale, and with this film Wright, Frost and Pegg have consistently demonstrated a unique and successful comedic style that will no doubt be celebrated in years to come.