Aside from trying and miserably failing to jump over fences, one sustaining factor in the previous two features in the affectionately named Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, is that of eternal youth, the idea that these big kids remain within a forever young mindset, reluctant to face adulthood. In The World’s End such a theme is at its most prevalent, where growing up is now essential, rather than favourable, as a film about five old friends who attempt to recreate a failed pub crawl from their youth. However sadly by the time we get to the final pub, this Cornetto has melted.
As Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg join forces once again, the latter plays Gary King, a lonesome man nearing 40, who wants nothing more than to reunite his oldest friends back together, and tackle the infamous pub crawl in their home town which they failed at miserably 20 years previous. Managing to persuade Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Andy (Frost) to join him on his quest, the five piece head back home, this time intent on reaching the final pub on their venture; The World’s End. However such an aim soon becomes the least of their problems, as they discover that all is not as it seems in this humble town.
In a similar vein to Shaun of the Dead, we have normal people unwittingly placed within surreal situations, however this isn’t quite as polished as what came before, and lacks that ingenuity this trio have become so famed for. The premise is fantastically simplistic and has much potential, but as we delve deeper into the story the cracks begin to appear, as we carelessly deviate away from the true crux of this story, as a film that steadily heads downhill as we progress towards the latter stages.
Though Pegg turns in an incredible performance as our lead – arguably the finest of his career thus far, portraying the tragic elements to Gary King sincerely – sadly the character isn’t quite as likeable as one would have hoped him to be, which is a surprising disappointment given how inherently endearing Pegg is as an actor. A flawed hero he may be, but one you may just struggle to root for. The character also suffers as the result of an unsuccessful role reversal between Pegg and Frost, as for the first time in the trilogy, it’s the latter who plays the “straight” guy. In Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it’s Pegg who has to keep Frost in check, as the more mature and supposedly sophisticated of the two, and it doesn’t quite work as well the other way around. You can understand why the actors felt inclined to switch roles, however some things are simply better left as they are. Meanwhile, the supporting characters are not used nearly enough, and despite attracting three immensely talented actors, there is little depth to their roles and the film is lacking in any palpable character development, denying the chance for them to fulfil their potential as actors.
On the plus side, there are some moments of sheer class, with riotous laughter littered throughout this production. The main source of comedy is how this collection of friends attempt to solve this big puzzle and fight against these demons when absolutely plastered, while the way we pensively watch them get more and more drunk adds to the humour, which builds up throughout the production, as the group that reach the end look somewhat different to the well-dressed, orderly gentlemen that initially take on this task. Other positives come in the brilliantly choreographed fighting sequences, and the masterfully selected soundtrack, with a blend of nineties classics ranging from Primal Scream to The Stone Roses to Blur, working as a well-judged backdrop to this already nostalgia-infused feature.
Though hilarious in parts, and heartwarming in others, The World’s End has the great misfortune of simply being branded as a “fun” comedy, and one that is sadly unlikely to amount to being too much more than that. Given the immense quality we have seen this trio be capable of in the past (Spaced, anyone?), it’s hard not to feel somewhat underwhelmed by this middling comedy flick. So when you watch The World’s End, desperately thirsty for a swig of Pegg, Frost and Wright’s genius, be prepared to settle for just half a shandy, as this picture isn’t quite the full pint of bitter we had hoped it might be.