Last weekend I finally put an end to my silly self-imposed theatrical-hiatus and plopped myself down with a bucket of popcorn and a pack of Sour Punch Straws (love those) to watch the final film in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (also known as the blood and ice-cream trilogy, more on the specifics of this later), The World’s End.
I had been anticipating the release of this film for ages, but was very concerned when the release date had been moved to August… the month generally reserved for summer films that will probably bomb, the sister month to January… when prestige films that won’t get much in the way of prestige or honor due to being crap are quietly dumped into theaters. Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about… Wright, Pegg, and Frost deliver yet another fantastic film, rounding out two decades of working together.
When The World’s End was released a month ago, my Twitter feed was full of accolades and praise for the film… but one piece of advice, I believe from Neil Gaiman… and you can’t ignore advice from Mr. Gaiman… was to go into this movie with as little knowledge of the plot as possible. After now having seen it, I completely concur… which means I will give very little of the plot away in this review beyond the basic premise.
Twenty years ago, five friends, led by the charismatic bad boy of the group, Gary King, attempt their small town’s Golden Mile… 12 pubs, 12 pints, one night. In a wonderfully grainy flashback to that drunken evening, we follow younger versions of our eventual heroes as they wander from pub to pub, some pass out early, one gets left behind on a bench, but three manage to complete nine of the twelve pubs before retiring to the countryside to watch the sun rise in what would become the greatest night of Gary King’s life. Unfortunately, the other four men went on to have actual lives; with jobs, kids, and responsibilities… Gary never moved on.
Brief side note… the specific date for their original pub crawl was June 22, 1990… which would be two days after I graduated high school, and the day I left the U.S. to travel around Europe as an 18 year old wandering idiot. Made me chuckle.
In the previous two films in the trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and Spaced as well), Pegg usually plays the straight man to Frost’s goofballery. The World’s End gives Pegg the opportunity to play a complete cunt whilst giving Frost the straight role, and the results are fantastic. To see Simon Pegg playing a man trapped in his adolescence is fantastic and hilarious, while being as horribly sad and pathetic as you would imagine a forty year old trying to relive his youth would be. And it’s this specific dynamic behind The World’s End.
Gary, after having an epiphany in the opening of the film, decides that he has to get the gang back together and complete the Golden Mile, which would eventually end at a pub called The World’s End. We are introduced to each character in their older guises one by one as Gary does his best to get everyone together… Martin Freeman is Oliver, a douchey real estate agent with the perpetual bluetooth in his ear, whose sister Gary shagged in a restroom that fateful June night when they first attempted the Golden Mile, Eddie Marsan is Pete, a car salesman, Paddy Considine is Steven, a man dating a 26 year old fitness instructor… and each of these three men ask the same question, “Is Andy coming? Really?” Andy is Nick Frost’s character, and was Gary’s best friend… his ultimate wingman.
At this point the movie kicks in. Once Gary has rounded up the gang Seven Samurai style, the crawl is on… and immediately, there are problems. Much to Gary’s surprise, life has carried on over the course of 20 years, and things have changed… even in their small hometown of Newton Haven. It’s been Starbucked as one of the boys refers to it… and one of the first, and best, sight gags is panning across one pub, only to have that same model of generic restaurant/pub be repeated in the next.
Needless to say, there is much more to the film than just a pub crawl… but that would be giving away too much. Things happen on both the small level between friends, and on the larger scale that they simply happen to find themselves in the midst of. The only hint as to what is to come will be this: The explanation of why these films are referred to as the Cornetto Trilogy. In each of the three films, a different flavor of Cornetto ice cream is featured in one way or another… and those flavors are thematic. In Shaun of the Dead, Frost eats a strawberry flavored Cornetto (blood red for zombies). In Hot Fuzz, both men are seen eating the original flavor of Cornetto (blue packaging for the men in blue). In The World’s End… I truly want to tell you… but I won’t… other than to say that the Cornetto flavor featured is mint… green packaging… make of that what you will.
Other than ice cream, there are other thematic ideas that are connective tissue throughout these three films. One of the main themes is about conformity and the dangers of such on a massive cultural level. In Shaun, it was about all of us moving through our lives as zombies… Hot Fuzz looked into the hazards of a community doing it’s best to control it’s residents in order to keep up appearances… and The World’s End, as I already mentioned, gives us a different perspective on the aforementioned “Starbucking” of the world.
Another thematic similarity would have to be friendship… and most importantly, that point when we all must stop acting like a child and simply grow up… and how being mature and responsible doesn’t mean giving up in life, it means to finally embrace it. Shaun had to realize that his relationship with his best friend was interfering with his relationship with his girlfriend… Frost had to grow up and separate from daddy in Hot Fuzz… and in The World’s End… obviously, Gary has some issues to deal with.
I’ve said enough… The World’s End is fantastic. It’s funny, it’s touching, it has some twists and turns and ends in a way no one could have guessed. If you want to see something good in the theater as the summer film season winds down and the seriousness of autumn rears it’s somber head, you couldn’t do much better than The World’s End… plus, thanks to the nature of the film, you may feel a tad drunk by the end, regardless of whether or not you’ve had a drop…
What the fuck does WTF mean?
Cornelius J. Blahg
PS: I don’t know where this image comes from… but it’s awesome.