Farcical Themes Bring Laughs to ‘The World’s End’

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CHICAGO – In the collaboration of actors Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright, the best in life come in threes. Following their sublime “Shaun of the Dead” and the wacky “Hot Fuzz,” comes ther third comic film rendering, “The World’s End.”

This is the last film in the infamous “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” named for a British ice cream company. It possesses all the Pegg/Frost/Wright trademarks, familiar in “Shaun” and “Fuzz” – dry humor, stylish slapstick, weird villains, deep friendship and quick-cut camera work – plus a bit more. This is more personal, as Simon Pegg’s over-the-top character is a recovering addict, and it focuses on themes like “you can’t go home again.” In essence, “The World’s End” is exactly what the title implies, it’s the end of the Trilogy, it’s the end of youth and it’s the last tavern on an epic pub crawl.

Gary (Simon Pegg) is a man in his late thirties with a severe case of arrested development. His glory days were in his youth, when he was the leader of his gang, including Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan). Gary escapes from a substance abuse recovery center, and begs his old mates to have a reunion in their small British town. Their mission is to have a pint in all 10 pubs in town, finishing with the last one on the “golden mile,” The World’s End.

Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Opposites Attract: Andy (Nick Frost, left) and Gary (Simon Pegg) in ‘The World’s End’
Photo credit: Focus Features

Besides Gary, the rest of the crew are all respectable citizens and family men. They reluctantly agree to the reunion, but have problems getting into it. That is until Oliver’s comely sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) joins the journey, and strange things start happening. There is something not right about the citizens of their hometown along the golden mile, they are seemingly captured in a state of a weird possession.

Like Shaun and Fuzz, the gang are in a fight for their very souls, but this one is a bit more complex, and bizarrely funny. Screenwriters Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright come up with an enemy that only a recovering addict named Gary can fight. And that is the genius of the themes, everything around the absurd “attack” is serious – the addiction, the rejection of Gary by his old friends, lost love and even the “infiltration” itself. But the result of this intermingling is very funny, true to the mode of the earlier films in the Trilogy.

Another interesting part of the proceedings is that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost sort of switch character personas in “The World’s End.” Instead of Frost being the genial sidekick, as in Shaun and Fuzz, he is the serious and responsible lawyer. He is also superior to the character of Gary in this one – and his polar opposite – as he is portrayed as a recovering alcoholic. Frost seems to relish this character role, he never breaks the basic personality even to the end. Pegg is a wild-eyed maniac in his role, obnoxious as addicts can be. It is these careful temperaments that distinguishes the Pegg/Frost/Wright films, and gives them their comic weight.

There is symbolism and modern satire as well, subtle as to be almost literary. All of the gang moved to urban areas, including Gary, and they experience (to a degree) the same reaction that many people have coming back to their hometown – “why has everyone changed, I’m still the same!” This is punctuated by the “infiltration,” which turns the townsfolk inward. Sex, avarice, self-medication and shades of the old horror film “Village of the Damned” are also thrown in, just to keep the local mankind on the up-and-up.

Simon Pegg
Gary About to Journey the Golden Mile in ‘The World’s End’
Photo credit: Focus Features

The frantic film style and shot cutting of Edgar Wright is also a treat, in which the pouring of a pint can take on the energy of go-go dancers. It’s not as evident as the cross cutting of “Hot Fuzz,” but there is also a more epic quality to it than the former two films. This was obviously the end of the whole enchilada for storytellers Pegg and Wright, and they put everything and the kitchen sink into it. The great thing is as they mature as creators, the work is more in-depth and rich.

Zombies and Criminals and…it would be a crime to say what the third enemy is, but it does hit us exactly where we live. Maybe Pegg, Frost and Wright are telling the story of civilization, how stupid it all can be and how our relationships – and sanity – are trickling away in the midst of it.

’The World’s End’ opens everywhere on August 23rd. Featuring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Directed by Edgar Wright. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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