The_World's_End_posterEveryone has moments from their formative years that they wish had ended better. If we’re lucky, it’s stuff we did do. If we’re unlucky, it’s things we didn’t, because therein lies regret. For me, I really wish I had gone to the lavatory before attempting to cycle from Falkirk to Stirling at the age of fourteen.

Regret for not seeing stuff through meets up with delayed male adolescence to form the bones of The World’s End, the latest movie from Edgar Wright and the conclusion to his Cornetto Trilogy of comedies featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Other entries, of course, are the first zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead which was followed up by pseudo-buddy-cop flick Hot Fuzz.

I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time, so much so that I found myself watching it at 10pm on a school night, the very first screening I could possibly make without flying 3,500 miles a couple of weeks ago. Anticipation and expectation have hardly reached such heady levels. Surely I was setting myself up for a fall? Surely it would end up being a massive disappointment? Surely Wright, Pegg, and Frost would find it impossible to close out the trilogy as strongly as they started it?

In short, the answers are no, no, and no. It’s great. I loved it. It’s funny, honest, bizarre, and an utterly compelling way to spend an hour and fifty minutes.

Twenty years ago, five school friends embarked on a legendary pub crawl — The Golden Mile — in their hometown of Newton Haven, where their goal is to have a drink in all twelve pubs. After pints, brawls and a quick fumble in the disabled toilets, the gang fail to stay upright enough to reach the final pub, The World’s End. Despite this, the night would linger with Gary (Simon Pegg, in a more anti-hero role than we’re used to seeing) as the best of his life. In the two decades that have followed, the other four friends have moved away, grown up, become responsible members of society but Gary has always lingered in the same alcohol-fuelled hedonism of his youth. After a therapy session, he employs charm, stupidity, lies, and emotional blackmail to reunite the gang and convince them to give The Golden Mile another shot and this time finish what they started. The hardest to persuade is the now tee-total Andy (Nick Frost in a role far removed from the buffoon that featured in Shaun and Fuzz), bruised physically and emotionally by his former best friend.

Upon their return, Gary learns that his friends aren’t the only things that have changed over the years. He’s not recognised as the local hero he believes himself to be. The town itself has grown more bland, more homogenised. Foreboding things to come, the first two pubs are carbon copies of each other, stripped of charm and tradition; they’ve been Starbucksed.

It’s a wonderful introduction to the movie, where the soundtrack and the group dynamic combine to be nostalgic of lost youth, reflective of how memory tends to be selective, and also serve a reminder of how priorities change as we grow up. It’s hard to say for sure, but I think I would have been quite happy if the rest of the movie stuck to the pub crawl and things didn’t go a bit mental.

But at the fourth pub, things do indeed go a bit mental. In the gents’ toilet of The Cross Hands, Gary gets into a fight with a local teenager where, after a collision with the porcelain, the teenager’s head comes off and an inky blue liquid pours out rather than blood. Soon after, the gang discover that the population of Newton Haven has been replaced by a robotic alien army. With Gary deciding that the best way to deal with this is to continue with The Golden Mile and pretend that it isn’t happening, as they get drunker, it becomes funnier watching them deal with the madness going on around them.

The primary joy comes from the chemistry between Pegg and the magnificent Frost whose relationship, despite the off-type in character, is as entertaining as ever. The moment where Frost finally flips and rips off his cardigan is fantastic moment. Peter (Eddie Marsan), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Oliver (Martin Freeman with an omnipresent bluetooth headset) all put in fantastic turns, particularly Marsan, as the other members of the troop.

The nods to Shaun and Fuzz are clear. It’s not a huge leap from zombies to mindless robots and we’re presented again with the population of another small sleepy town hiding a shared dastardly secret. It’s a testament to the charm and humour of the movie that these similarities plus this sudden genre turn don’t really jar or feel contrived.

Edgar Wright’s direction is as crisp and energetic as the script he penned with Simon Pegg but if I have a complaint about his work in general it’s that he plays about too much at the end a film. Usually, he gets away with it. The six-ending ending of Hot Fuzz worked as an exaggerated pastiche of action movie denouements where the dead bad guy is never really dead at the first time of asking. The supposed extended closing fight in Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Scott vs Nega Scott) turned out to be thankfully brief. Here, there’s one scene out of the final three which doesn’t earn its place, seems to switch the main voice of the movie, and just feels odd.

And so we come back to regret. This team of directing and acting talent works so well together and provides such guarantees of comedy and entertainment that it would be a real shame if the circle and trilogy does close here, even if it is on such a high note.

A triumph. A veritable one at that.

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