Nic Wright

Review: The World’s End

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The set-up of The World’s End, the latest and last film in Edgar Wright’s so-called Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, quite aptly mirrors the journey of the series itself; a group of friends enjoy a wild youth together and reunite – a little older, a little wiser and a little more established – for old time’s sake, to finish off what they started some years ago.

In the case of The World’s End, it’s a pub crawl across their home town. In the case of Wright, and collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it’s a series of unique comedy films that have taken root in the British consciousness.

Do our heroes manage to complete the once-revered Golden Mile, dignity intact? SPOILER ALERT…ish. Do Wright and co pull off a fitting end to their beloved Cornetto flicks? Not so much.

Of course, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But rolling out a similar formula to that which proved so successful in previous installments –  Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – unfortunately doesn’t guarantee a winner here.

In The World’s End, oft-reluctant friends once again battle chaos and danger, this time in the form of a loosely plotted alien/robot invasion.

The story is vague, reflecting the small-town conspiracy vibes of Hot Fuzz, but playing out more like an episode of Doctor Who on a slow week.

And the speed at which the switch is thrown from pub-crawl set-up to everyone-in-this-town -is-a-robot is incredibly jarring.

What it does do however, is allow Wright to show off the CGI-soaked choreography skills he honed on Scott Pilgrim; slick, but in this instance, somehow unsatisfying.

In the past, the dynamic between Pegg and Frost has been at the heart of these films.

Here, things feel a bit more arid; Frost’s corporate lawyer Andy loathes Pegg’s ne’er-do-well Gary, and it’s hard to blame him.

Gary is incredibly irritating. There’s no getting around it, and, since the whole film centres on him, it proves a huge sticking point.

An obnoxious waster, any attempts to portray Gary as a hapless anti-hero fall short, with his big emotional climax coming over as forced.

Gary’s ‘musketeers’ offer little in the way of enjoyable characterisation either; a gaggle of relatively charmless fellows, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan are given virtually nothing to work with, though the latter’s performance as perpetual victim Peter comes closest to bringing some warmth to proceedings.

Rosamund Pike, as the only female presence, contributes very little – unless you count a wet attempt at a catchphrase which makes her sound insufferably like Hugh Grant.

A spattering of cameos from British comedy players make for good fun, though aren’t really a suitable substitute for actual jokes.  (We won’t ruin them for you here; it’s more fun to collect them yourself, and you can give yourself one Cool Point for everyone you can name. There’s no system for redeeming them yet, but maybe one day you’ll be able to swap them at the bar for milkshakes or stickers. We can dream, can’t we?)

The final punch-line of the film never quite materialises either, with a bizarre, preachy epilogue that plays out like a parody of the likes of The Road, Revolution or 28 Days Later, but evidently… isn’t.

It’s not all doom and gloom here at the end of all things though.

There are sniggers aplenty, one or two lines that stick, and reference and repeat-joke spotting holds the interest easily enough.

Though dampened slightly, Wright’s frantic directional ticks are still evident, and he piles on the visual gags, so the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

Overall though, it lacks any real sense of spirit, or exuberance, or key defining moments. The only angle it tries to sell that’s palpable is that of faded youth.

Gary feels alienated by his friends having settled into their button-down lives of mediocrity, and some fans watching might well feel the same.

A little less colorful, a little less quotable, and a little less memorable than its older brothers, The World’s End is a fairly entertaining, if stretched, final outing for the ice cream man-boys – though it’s probably not quite the one you were hoping for.

The World’s End is currently showing at cinemas across the UK, including the wonderful Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. Click for tickets.