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The World’s End

August 23, 2013
The World's End

At long last we come to the “conclusion” of the so-called “Cornetto Trilogy” of films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, produced by Nira Park, and directed by Edgar Wright. From their start in the British series Spaced, through “rom-zom-com” Shaun of the Dead and buddy-cop Hot Fuzz, the four have produced some of the most solidly hilarious geek-driven entertainment around. And with The World’s End they keep the tradition going strong. There will be long, vociferous arguments over where, exactly, this movie falls among the others, but this much is not up for debate: this is easily the funniest, most all-around entertaining film of the summer.

Gary “The King” King (Pegg) grew up in Newton Haven. Or, rather, he turned 18 there; he’s never really grown up. He still cherishes the memories of youthful delinquency with his school buddies Peter (Eddie Marsan), “O-Man” (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Andrew (Frost), and particularly their attempt at “The Golden Mile”: a crawl through the town’s twelve pubs. Decades later, he’s still the same erratic, Sisters-of-Mercy-obsessed prat as always, while the rest have moved on with their lives.

Still, when Gary gets it in his head to go back to Newton Haven and reattempt the Golden Mile, he manages to convince the rest to go along with him. But like they say, you can’t go home again; they find the pubs have been corporatized and homogenized. Worse: they start to realize that this town in particular has been taken over by robots. Or, not robots. Or, did you ever realize what the word “robot” means… well, nevermind; they’re something else than human, filled with some inky blue fluid and set on assimilating the existing population into their society.

As befits these kings of geeks, the film is packed with references, both internal and external, obvious and obscure. The dialogue comes fast, laced with wit from wordplay to running gags. I’m convinced that the blue ink is a subtle reference to the British port of the ultra-violent video game Carmageddon, which palette-swapped the red blood for black oil and said the people you mowed down were “robots”. There’s even enough structure and oblique cross-reference — the green mint Cornetto wrapper is just the tip of the ice cream cone — to support years of close scrutiny by fans. The sort of details packed into this film are proof that the producers love us and want to be happy.

The biggest surprise, though, is that The World’s End features some of the clearest, most exciting action of any movie this year, hands down. A massive bar fight — normally the best excuse for a chaotic melee — is shot in a steady round, focusing on one batch of brawlers at a time. The choreography is impeccable and the main cast all do a great job with it. In fact, the only significant use of stunt doubles is a dive through a sugar-glass window, which the insurance company balked at over concerns about cuts and exacerbating diabetes.

Personally, I put this film at the top of the heap, though some may make the case for Shaun of the Dead, or Hot Fuzz, or even Spaced as the superior work, and I say this despite some misgivings about the surface-level reading of the film’s ending. But the common thread in all these Pegg-Frost-Wright-Park productions is the fan communities they’ve grown from; this sort of well-meaning yet spirited debate is the life-blood of these communities. However you sort them, we’ve got four solid offerings to choose from, each with its own distinct and original style. We may be out of Cornetto flavors, but I doubt we’ve enjoyed the last from this group.

Worth It: absolutely.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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