Comedy teams were once a staple of Hollywood; from Abbott and Costello, to Laurel and Hardy, to The Three Stooges — they weren’t just two stars working together, but their team itself was the star. But I suppose all good things must come to an end, as the studio system fell apart and things became more about the individual, as well as the stand-up comedian boom of the 70’s and 80’s, the idea of a comedy team has become a thing of the past, with the focus moving to the solo comedy star. However, since 1999 and the debut of the cult classic television series Spaced, we have been graced with the comedy team from across the pond, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director Edgar Wright. They of course haven’t exclusively worked together like the teams of old, but whenever the three of them do get together, we can always count on some of the most clever and creative comedy around, and The World’s End is no exception.
As the final installment of what has been dubbed “The Cornetto Trilogy” (the first two installments being Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), The World’s End continues in the tradition of being an homage to beloved films and film tropes. Shaun of the Dead took on zombie movies, Hot Fuzz paid tribute to buddy cop action extravaganzas, and here we are treated to an invasion flick. With their past successes giving them plenty of budget and creative freedom, the filmmakers seem to take this as a challenge as to just how far they can take things. What starts out as five buddies taking on a pub crawl they had unsuccessfully attempted two decades before, The World’s End goes for broke as this most ordinary night of nostalgia turns into a fight against a worldwide overtaking, in a sort of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers meets The Terminator. Of course a little nuisance of global takeover doesn’t stop the excellent ensemble, led by Pegg and Frost, along with Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan, from attempting to finish their journey through the watering holes of their hometown.
In addition to the truly great ensemble performance, The World’s End is guided by the brilliant hand of director Edgar Wright. Wright, who co-wrote the film with Pegg, brings a creative and ambitious design to the film, in a time where comedies are so often directed by simply pointing the camera at the stars and letting the cameras roll. From the manic action scenes to a very fun bit of subtle choreography in a little musical montage, the camera work, music selection, and even emotional resonance are brought to life in a way that is so rarely seen in the bargain comedies that get thrown together today, banking on little more than the likability of the stars and some overplayed bathroom humor. The World’s End isn’t just fishing for a few laughs, but strives to be a well-made film, both behind the camera and in front.
The only thing that does manage to slow The World’s End down is its own go-for-broke ambition. While everything is of course anchored with humor, the details of the whole invasion do occasionally toe the line of being just a bit too much. It is also worth nothing, I think, that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do reverse their usual roles, with Frost now acting as the straight-man and Pegg as the rube. While they do both have the chops to pull off these roles, it does take a bit of getting used to, altering the chemistry that we’ve come to know and love. Overall, The World’s End may not be on the same level of brilliance as Shaun of the Dead, but it still stands head-and-shoulders above the common comedy, with imagination and wit to spare.
My Rating: 3 Stars