The World's End (15) – Review
They’ve fought off a zombie invasion and a murderous conspiracy in Gloustershire; now, back from the dead (well, Star Trek Into Darkness and Snow White & The Huntsman, which is creatively the same thing – zing!) Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright reunite for the third in their Cornetto trilogy, The World's End …
But how do you follow up the beloved Shaun of the Dead and hugely successful Hot Fuzz and recognise the fact you’re no longer the same bunch of aimless, wide-eyed from two decades ago while keeping a grip on the rootless charm that made your last two collaborations such a blast?
For lo, The World’s End is a charming, apocalyptic, comedy-sci-fi with more sneaky sides than Thunderdome’s annual poker tournament. From the title, through the compulsive bullshit of Pegg’s character Paul King, to the weasel words of its smooth-talking baddies, this is a film about (and full of) chisellings, adjustments and bends of the truth. It’s really good, very funny and quite moving at the end, actually.
The fibs start small and get more whopper-like as you go along. Press-ganged into an attempt to revisit a teenaged pub crawl in their childhood hometown. Pegg’s semi-charismatic, utterly manipulative Paul King bullshits estranged best friend Nick Frost, kind-hearted rival Paddy Considine, glassy-eyed estate agent Martin Freeman and car dealer Eddie Marsden into a return to sleepy/comatose Newton Haven to finish the twelve pint odyssey they started twenty years ago when they had the world at their feet and The Soup Dragons on their walkmans. Here's a trailer.
Actually, Pegg’s character has still got The Soup Dragons on his stereo. Frost, Considine et all are unnerved to discover Pegg’s character is still listening to the compilation tapes he made twenty years ago when their host is driving them back to Newton Haven. And before they’ve even finished their first pint, an increasingly desperate King has offended his companions and failed to get off with his childhood heartthrob (an underused Rosamund Pike). But their Aldridge Prior-like host is far from the most frightening thing in their childhood town…
If Shaun of the Dead already seems like a world away, Spaced must be a galaxy. Now a fixture in at least two Hollywood franchises, the weird thing for Simon Pegg to do would be to pretend that he’s still the same chap that haunted the corners of pubs twenty years ago. The World’s End’s gives us the nostalgia fix that Spaced has in spades – in fact its dusty pubs, Spaced cameos and childhood towns offer nostalgic wheels within wheels. But it undermines them all through Pegg's lead, Paul King, whose amberized obsession with getting back to when things were simpler and his life was on track is enough to make you run away to the nearest job in middle management.
Except while Paul King is a monster – at least as bad as some of the more obvious horrors in Wright’s alien invasion movie – co-writers Pegg, Frost and Wright do right by him. He may be an arse, but he's a persistent arse – and as as each of his gang finds an ending that will have you cheering, in between discovering an alien invasion, Nick Frost doing an AMAZING Hulk impression using a pair of bar stools and an amazing bit from Simon Pegg where he attempts to drink a pint while being, shall we say, interrupted, The World’s End delivers.
The thing is, just like King's loyalty to his friends, Pegg, Frost and Wright's film is rigorously honest where it matters. Pegg’s character promises their trip will be epic and it is. Wright promises amazing fight scenes and they are – his ‘pub fu’ fights (choreographed by Jackie Chan's go to guy) with Newton Haven’s blank-faced invaders are smart, thrilling, funny sequences you’ll want to hug to death (oops – the head’s come off) and crucially that pub crawl format – the quest to complete a twelve hostelry crawl – doesn’t just fall away when things kick off. It’s just as important to King as preventing The World’s End and seen through with the same kind of bloodymindedness that has you eventually cheering on the most unlikely – and apocalyptic-ey – hero since Mad Max.
Review by Rob Barker
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