Netflix UK film review: The World’s End
Simon Pegg being unlikeable8
Simon Pegg being unlikeable5
Ivan Radford | On 20, Nov 2013
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan
Watch The World’s End online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
There’s always one. They stick out awkwardly from the others. They make jokes that others don’t always find funny. They function best when drunk.
Gary King (Pegg) is that one. While his old school friends grow up and enjoy real life, he still dreams of the time they almost completed the Golden Mile in their old town of Newton Haven – 12 pubs, 12 pints. So he tricks the old gang (Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine) into getting back together for one more run. What’s the worst that could happen?
It’s a slow start to Edgar Wright’s comedy but one that allows Pegg and Frost to build up their main character. Sadly, though, he’s just not very nice; lying about dead relatives and borrowing people’s identities, his old schoolmates may feel sorry for Gary but we never do. That’s not a problem, if there are laughs to hold your attention, but the first 20 minutes of Edgar Wright’s The World’s End mainly seem to rely upon Gary’s copious drinking and swearing in a high-pitched voice for giggles – a change from the verbal and visual comedy crafted by the trio of Frost, Wright and Pegg in Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead.
But in many ways, Gary’s progression from man-child to man-dult is a fitting final flavour for an ice cream trilogy wrapped in nostalgia; with almost 10 years passed since Shaun, it feels natural for the boys to be thinking about times gone by. In fact, Gary presents Pegg with his best role of the series: a selfish man with whom it’s impossible to argue.
Pegg is so good at playing douche, though, that the emotional journey of the film never quite hits those warm Fuzz-y notes. The ensemble’s other characters are only briefly sketched (Freeman’s straight man, Considine’s unrequited adorer of Freeman’s sister, played by Rosamund Pike, Marsan’s victim of bullying), while Nick Frost’s cautious companion does a complete 180 halfway through – an amusing about-turn, yes, but one that only undermines the attempts at sincere sentiment.
Luckily, the laughs escalate significantly come the second half; once we’re through the foamy head, we’re downing a manic spree of explosions, goo and alcohol that climaxes in a wonderfully written showdown. Wright’s direction of action sequences is as fluid as ever, casually lining up long takes like a barman pulling pints. It’s a shame, then, that while the ending is solid, the innards are slightly hollow, almost as if the humans involved were replaced by robots.
Still, The World’s End never loses the courage of its barmy convictions; Pegg and Frost’s script nails that strange feeling you get when returning to old haunts, even if it doesn’t generate more emotion than that.
When the long-awaited Cornetto moment finally comes, it’s a subdued nod that longs for the old days. That longing never leaves. The World’s End is an entertaining game of Spot the Cameo, but it’s not on par with the rest of the Three Flavours series. Alongside the brilliance of Shaun and Hot Fuzz, this uneven effort sticks out awkwardly, isn’t always funny and, like its anti-hero, probably functions best when drunk. A disappointing end to the trilogy? Yes. But there’s always one.
The World’s End is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.