The World’s End
British comic actors/writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and their director/co-writer Edgar Wright, have taken on a very specific place in the movie world. They make very funny movies based upon beloved film genres. Shaun of the Dead took on zombie films. Hot Fuzz played off of action adventure films. Paul was a funny look at science fiction and alien visitors. And their latest, The World’s End, looks, quite naturally, at the end of the world.
The films are very comic takes on beloved film genres. But don’t call them parodies.
“I would never call Shaun of the Dead a parody,” Pegg said recently at the New York press junket for The World’s End. “Hot Fuzz is not really a parody. It draws attention to some of the formal aspects of action cinema, but not in a way that is satirical, particularly. Changing the context, make you realize how ridiculously rambunctious these films are sometimes…. We always like the idea of taking the cinema that we love as kind of big kids and using it to say things we feel as adults. So I would refute the notion of anything we’ve ever done being a send-up.”
Frost had said something very similar to me in 2007 when he was releasing Hot Fuzz. “We don’t like to use the word spoof or parody. We love these films. We love horror films, too. We like to think of them as love letters to the genre.”
It is an interesting and valid point. The World’s End certainly has much more on its mind than the average Scary Movie or Meet the Spartans or Vampires Suck!
That said, for as much fun as The World’s End is, the movie has the same problem as all of the team’s films. The genre action is almost never as interesting as the comic thread of the film. In the last 30 minutes of The World’s End you get to the point that you have had your fill of robot fights and just want to get back to listening to the five guys bickering about the past.
Because, in the early going, before the whole robot takeover of a small town plot really took root, The World’s End was by far the funniest thing that these crazed Brits had created yet. Even after the genre aspects take over, this is still a damned good movie, but all of running and fighting becomes a bit of a distraction.
The film’s subtler aspects, a look at the overly seductive lure of nostalgia and the eventual realization that you really can’t go home again, lead to some of the finest comedy of any film this year.
The storyline is deceptively simple. In 1990, on their last day in school, five friends decided to do a pub crawl of their tiny hometown – a mile-long path in which they have to hit twelve pubs for at least one beer apiece. Back then they did not quite make it for the whole crawl, but it was still the best day in Gary King’s life.
Twenty-some years later Gary (played by Simon Pegg) is an alcoholic and completely living in the past (he appears to only own one shirt, a vintage Sisters of Mercy concert T). Gary has always considered the pub crawl to be his finest day, and the fact that they did not finish is his biggest regret.