Though not really a trilogy, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright have now created three loosely-linked comedies that they’ve dubbed the Cornetto Trilogy. The first two films were, of course, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I love those movies, so I jumped at the chance to see a movie marathon this week. From 5:30-midnight, we watched all three, culminating with the new film, The World’s End.
Let me just take a minute to say I really like Shaun of the Dead, but I absolutely love Hot Fuzz. It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time. I don’t think The World’s End will replace it in my top 5, but I still enjoyed the new movie very much. Watching the whole trilogy also gave me a chance to compare and contrast the three movies and the characters each actor plays throughout. Lots of food for thought there.
In The World’s End, Simon Pegg plays Gary King. He was your typical badass teenager in 1990, leaving school and full of optimism and hatred for authority. 20 years later, he’s…exactly the same person, but a lot more depressed. He wears the same clothes, has the same coat and dyed black hair. He failed to grow up. His gang of teenage friends, on the other hand, have all become proper adults with trench coats and nice cars and retirement plans. Gary convinces himself that the best way to get a new lease on life is to go back and finish the epic quest they started when they were teenagers–a 12-pint pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. The eponymous World’s End is the last pub on the route.
He re-enters the thoroughly normal lives of his former friends and convinces them to go along on this trip. Though they react to him like an unwelcome re-emergence of herpes, they all show up. There’s
Eddie Marsan as Peter
Nick Frost as Andy
For once, Nick Frost gets to play the smart guy who is frustrated by his friend’s low IQ/responsibility. This is a real departure, considering the near opposite roles they had in Hot Fuzz. Andy is a lawyer with a big fancy office, and he’s quite angry at Gary (Simon) because of something that happened when they were teenagers. A slight flaw in Gary’s plans for a pub crawl is that Andy no longer drinks-at all.
Martin Freeman plays Oliver
People forget that Martin Freeman has been in both of the previous movies, but he has! He had a very tiny scene in Shaun of the Dead, as Yvonne’s boyfriend. And he was a member of the Metropolitan Police Force in Hot Fuzz. Here, he finally gets a proper part of the action. Oliver is a realtor with a hot sister (Rosamund Pike) and a curious birthmark. I love Martin Freeman, but I cannot possibly be remotely attracted to anyone with a bluetooth headset, so that spoiled things a bit.
Lastly, Paddy Considine plays Steven
You should recognize Paddy (though he no longer has the glorious mustache) as DC Wainwright–or was it Cartwright?–from Hot Fuzz. In this movie, Steven is something of a rival to Gary–or that’s how Gary saw it in school–and the two are both interested in Oliver’s sister. Of course, he’s dating his 26-year-old Pilates instructor, so that’s a little awful, but what can you do.
At any rate, the 5 guys get together for a night in the old town. Gary hasn’t changed at all. His clothes, his attitude about life, even his car–all the same. He plays an old song from their youth, and Steven points out that he once put that on a mixed tape for Gary. It’s the same tape; it’s been in the tape player ever since.
Everything else is different. The town is different. A few pubs have been turned into soulless outlets of a chain of pubs with the same decor and the same offerings. The local drug dealer from school is now a suit-wearing businessman. Peter’s worst bully doesn’t even recognize him. Oh yeah, and the town is now controlled by body-snatcher-style robots filled with blue inky goo.
The movie is many things simultaneously. It’s a nod to movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stepford Wives–the robots just want to be model citizens and obey the laws, etc. It’s a different take on the mid-life crisis movies/bromance drinking movies like The Hangover and Grown-Ups. It’s a discussion about growing up and changing, and what happens when you don’t do that. And what happens when you do it too much.
As expected, it was very funny. I think sometimes the pacing was a little uneven. Feverish action moments, and then things slowed to a crawl. When you compare this to the slow build of the other two films, it’s a bit of a weakness. And Rosamund Pike’s character isn’t given much to do, except to be a girl who exists in this world. Something to save and a prize for the hero at the end. These never were movies about women, let’s be honest. And I really don’t know how I feel about the ending. Unlike Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this is a proper apocalypse movie with a dystopian future left at the end. I don’t know how I feel about that, except that I feel like I can’t take any more books/movies about Armageddon.
Some of the in-jokes and homages were presumably lost on me because I’m not up on kung-fu movies or comic books. But the other thing about this trilogy is you catch new jokes each time you watch. This time through Hot Fuzz, I realized that there is a really blatant reference to the classic Jack Nicholson movie, Chinatown (which, if you haven’t seen, I recommend it but please have some Xanax ready afterward because it is a downer). But I’d never noticed that before, and it really made me chuckle. I predict that I will need to watch The World’s End at least 3 more times before I can really evaluate my long-term opinion of it. But I’m happy to make that sacrifice.
Also, can I end with some ridiculous trivia I have just discovered? As I said, most of the actors have been in all three movies. As have a lot of other actors that just come in for brief moments. Bill Nighy was step-dad Phillip in SotD, and the Chief Inspector in HF. He lends only his voice to tWE, but he was there. David Bradley (aka Argus Filch) was in HF and plays the town conspiracy theorist in tWE. And most amazingly is the story of Rafe Spall. First bit of strange trivia–he’s the son of Timothy Spall, aka Peter Pettigrew. In tWE, he has a brief cameo as a man looking to buy a house, but you will remember him from HF as DI Cartwright (or was it Wainwright?!?).