Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have experienced a great run with their director pal Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are intertwined into our movie conscious and there’s no getting them out. This is quite surprising given that the plot to either one of these films could also double as the synopsis to a low-budget movie on Redbox. Both features are pretty much ridiculousness. High end ridiculousness I might add.
The World’s End, the last installment in the Cornetto trilogy, is no different. The film works simply because it’s so downright outlandish. But don’t let that scare you away because you really want to get in on this kind of ridiculousness. Let me take a minute and explain myself.
The story begins with Gary King (Simon Pegg), a vagabond of sorts who hasn’t been back to his hometown of Newton Haven in nearly twenty years. Even after all of this time though, he’s not forgotten the days spent tearing up the city with his buddies Peter, Oliver, Steven, and Andy (Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Nick Frost). Gary’s most vivid memory as a teenager is when the gang attempted to complete the fabled Golden Mile, a legendary pub crawl that comes to a finale at, The World’s End. Realizing this unfulfilled journey was one of the greatest nights of his life, Gary gets the band back together to give this drinking marathon one more try.
Much has changed for the five friends since their failure to reach The World’s End two decades earlier. Everyone, with the exception of Gary, has grown up to become responsible, productive adults. That being said, Gary King is still the same old Gary King he was during their first attempt at the Golden Mile. The gang’s moved on though, and so has Newton Haven. It’s not long before the pub crawlers realize that their hometown is much different than they remember it to be. The city possesses a mysterious presence that Gary and crew just can’t seem to shake. It’s almost as if Newton Haven has been taken over by an otherworldly source. DUN, DUN, DUN.
What happens next is a tale of survival, robots (though they don’t preferred to be called that), and pure ridiculousness. Director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg have truly penned a gem of a screenplay that ends up being one of the funniest movies in recent years. The casts’ chemistry is perfect and the cheeky one-liners bounce around from one character to the next, making it hard to catch all of the humor in one viewing. I watched World’s End in a theater about 25% full, but the volume of laughter made the crowd seem like a Friday night premiere of The Avengers.
Even with outlandish jokes and unexpected, absurd plot twists, The World’s End is no lightweight. The narrative shrewdly touches on topics like growing up and why it’s not always easy to revisit your roots. The dreams we possess when we’re young don’t always align with our future. We expect to do great things, but sometimes life hits us in ways we never expected. Going home can be tough because it reminds us of the aspirations of our youth and yet it produces none of their qualities. The life we once knew, moves on and all of our nostalgia is but a distant memory. Essentially, we’re forgotten about.
Gary King and Andy Knightley (Pegg and Frost respectively) stand on opposite sides of the developmental spectrum. King is a free spirit who doesn’t like to be told what to do. He is the “king” of his own path. Andy is a robot who won’t admit to being a robot. He spends his days doing what he’s told, because he’s told that’s what he’s supposed to do. He has the appearance of being a noble “knight,” but in the end he just exists to do the king’s bidding. Newton Haven is the one place where they can return to the “good ‘ole days.” Yet, their town isn’t what it once was. I mean that last sentence literally.
I would argue that The World’s End resonates with all of us because Gary and Andy’s plight is not very different from ours. Looking back at the past, returning home, or talking with old friends can not only produce feelings of nostalgia, but also disappointment. For some, we wish we were more responsible and made something of ourselves. We wish we would have gotten married or had children. For others, it might be that we regret not living life outside the box. We look back at our adolescent dreams and think about what could have been. Life changes and we wonder if we made an impact at all. We wonder if we’ve been forgotten. Some days we wish we could just go back and do it all over again. Maybe we’ll complete the challenge this next time.
If World’s End teaches us anything, it’s this: don’t wait for the end of the world to get your spark back.
For all of its ridiculousness, The World’s End has a soul. It’s exactly how you hoped the Cornetto trilogy would end. It’s a hilarious, character-driven, comedy that’ll make you think twice about traveling back to your hometown. I applaud you Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. You’ve made nonsense fun again.
The World’s End is rated R and is currently in theaters.
4 ½ Stars out of 5