Rated R for pervasive language and sexual references
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and more
For the first 20 minutes, you’ll think you wandered into the wrong movie.
Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” know what to expect when Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get together – hilariously madcap genre explosions with a decided English twist. “The World’s End,” the latest movie from the trio and the last in what’s being referred to as the “Cornettos Trilogy,” eventually achieves those heights as well. By the end, there will be all the alien bashing and glorious weirdness any Edgar Wright fan could hope for.
The first half hour, though, is an almost painful exploration of what happens to childhood friendships when one of the friends never grows up. Simon Pegg plays Gary King, a disheveled wreck who never managed to move beyond his glory days in 1990. He gathers his old friends to try and re-create a pub crawl he considers to be the highlight of his life, but they’ve all moved on with their lives. Nick Frost does some magnificent acting here as someone who’s truly grown beyond their former self, but it’s only a half step away from out-and-out tragedy.
Then there’s a fight in the bathroom, and the movie explodes into a really condensed, boozed out cross between “The Pod People” and “War of the Worlds.” This is where the laughs start, along with a romance that manages to be oddly sweet despite its brevity. Frost and Paddy Considine (who was also in “Hot Fuzz”) both manage to give their characters a surprising heroism even as they pratfall their way through an alien invasion.
The best part, however, might be the fight scenes, full out brawls that manage to be both hilarious and satisfying on an action level. If you’re in the right mindset, there’s nothing funnier than watching an alien get beaten into unconsciousness with their (its?) own arm. The pleasures here aren’t quite as subtle or complex as in “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.
The movie is smart enough to know when to pay its respects. Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” will appreciate the nods to those two movies, including a delightful last-minute guest appearance by a Cornetto (a brand of ice cream cone popular in Britain). David Bradley, riffing on his unintelligible old man role from “Hot Fuzz,” is equally fun.
Another carryover from the previous movies is an oddly serious exploration of male friendship. Frost and Pegg have some remarkably moving scenes about two friends who ended up growing apart because of their very different lives, all of which blend with the chaos far better than the extended opening. Real friends may fight, but they also know when to tackle alien scum.