Director: Edger Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edger Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman
“Get back in your rocket, and fuck off back to Legoland you cunts!!”
The World’s End – the 3rd film from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edger Wright – was always unfairly up against it. With two much loved and enduring instalments in the Cornetto trilogy to live up to, and a significant gap between development as the principal players went off to pursue the bountiful opportunities presented to them by a thoroughly wooed Hollywood, the final film would have to pull something pretty special out in order to stand up to the weight of expectations.
It’s unlikely that the Worlds End will instantly knock Shaun of the Dead from position as most peoples favourite (though we’re rather partial to Hot Fuzz these days) but considered in isolation this is a hugely impressive and unique comedy creation bursting with ideas and deep emotional characters. Besides, a lesson learnt by most fans from the very first airing of Spaced (the breakthrough TV series) is that the group always manage to deliver a very subtle form of comedy which increases in appreciation on every viewing.
Thankfully the small scale of the previous films has been preserved rather than giving into the obvious temptations of a grand scale, big budget mess which would perhaps have been the more predictable choice. There are plenty of impressive special effects and slick fight scenes on show but they retain the tongue firmly stuck in cheek irony provided by the unglamorous small town English setting.
For those who have followed Pegg and co throughout the years (as a spritely faced unknown understudy to Steve Coogan’s stand up, to his breakthroughs Asylum, Big Train and the supreme cult classic Spaced) it does come as a bit of shock to see for the first time that those familiar faces have already started to sag and bloat, and perhaps getting a little too old for this kind of geeky fan-boy action. Has it really been that long since they were the leading lights of Britian’s late 90s – early 00s comedy scene?
Fortunately the years spent under-performing in average/poor big money productions in the US do not seem to have blunted the groups various talents. Wright brings his trademark fast paced direction with bags full of editing trickery, while the usual bonkers story line is used to tell a quite human story. Once again Pegg, Frost and the brilliant cast demonstrate they are still the masters of subtle comic timing and understated mannerisms.
As usual Pegg takes the lead, his enormous acting ability being relied upon as the lynch pin to set up most of the drama and to deliver the early gags. At first his performance feels unexpectedly awkward and not a little over the top, but it soon becomes clear that this is actually a central part of his character and a hugely rewarding running joke. Once the story kicks in and the other actors take over the comedy reigns it becomes clear that Pegg is actually on top form, and has created an interestingly tragi-comic character we’ve never seen him deliver before. As he swaggers around with an unfamiliar air of arrogance it is not long before the extent of his fragile delusionary state reveals itself.
But as should by now be predicted it is Frost who steals the best ‘big laugh’ moments with his effortless gift for loveable comic buffoonery. As with Pegg he too tries something new with one of the straightest character he’s yet performed but still manages to unleash the more familiar layers of unstable madness when required.
The only real disappointment is that the guys have once again got the brilliant Paddy Consadine involved but still not fully tapped his undoubted comedy potential. We have seen glimpses in a few Shane Meadows films, Submarine, and of course the brilliant cameo in Hot Fuzz, but never has he been able to fully let rip. Unfortunately, despite being given a lot of screen time he is kept pretty restrained as the straight man.
The Worlds End is a strong return to form from the legendary team of Pegg, Frost and the wizard director Edger Wright, but it does not come without a slight tint of bitterness. Along with Steve Coogan’s return to his classic character Alan Partridge it only serves as a glaring reminder that there is currently no promising comedy being produced on British shores. With Peep Show stretching itself thin into a 9th series, and the BBC resorting to a worrying revival of Gervais’ The Office, there is a mystifying and embarrassing dearth of fresh comic talent and it is very unlikely we will see any talent move up to the big screen for quite a few years. The golden age revival of modern British comedy has now well and truly passed and we can only hope that the next wave gets a move on.