The World's End such a brilliant addition to Edgar
Wright's Cornetto trilogy? For starters, it addresses
the one part of genre entertainment thus far missing.
Shaun of the Dead handled
horror movies, Hot Fuzz did over-the-top action
spectacle, but we hadn't yet seen science fiction
given Wright's uproarious treatment. An
Invasion of the Body
Snatchers parody feels just about right, capturing
paranoia and fears of conformity while indulging in
the kind of puckish mischief suited to doughy
protagonists running for their lives. That's what we
paid for with this movie, and that's what we get in
But the real genius of the film -- that
extra touch that elevates it to the level of an
instant classic -- is the way he ties it in to far
more ordinary trials and travails. We'd seen hints of
it in earlier films: the heroes' general fecklessness
in Shaun, for example, or their tendency to
confuse fictional bombast for real life in Hot Fuzz.
But here, he and co-conspirator Simon Pegg tie it
firmly into the exotic elements: making it feel like a
more naturalistic part of the story and scoring some
very keen points in the process.
Specifically, they're talking about
high school: that awkward age that most of us would
like to forget but which leaves us with a combination
of heartfelt nostalgia and lingering psychological
scars that define us as adults. We always see part of
it with rose-colored glasses: the good parts, where we
goofed off with our buddies and reveled in our first
real taste of grown-up pleasures. The rest we tried to
forget, and while most of us moved on into a more
serious mindset, we inevitably buried some of the good
stuff along with the pain.
That is of course, unless you're one of
the Gary Kings (Pegg) of the world: the ones for whom
high school was the greatest time of their life and
who would do anything to go back. We're not talking
about the jocks or the homecoming queens, but the
rebels without a cause. The ones who quoted philosophy
books they never read and used elaborate excuses about
fighting conformity as an excuse to ditch class and go
smoke in back of the 7-Eleven. They often gave the
rest of us hope: a precious way to remind us that it
was okay to color outside the lines. But we also knew,
instinctively, that these celebrated bad boys were
going to have a very rough time of it once real
adulthood got a hold of them.
So it is with King, former Lord of the
Misfits who graduated to become a first-rate screw-up.
At the apex of his reign, he and his friends attempted
an epic pub crawl in the 12 famous bars of their
hometown, only to be turned back by… well, by the same
things that turn back anyone who's consumed enough
alcohol to kill most forms of livestock. 20 years
later, he vows to complete the crawl, dragging his
respectable and semi-willing friends along for the
All of that would have been good
enough, fueled by Pegg's keen understanding of his
character's pathos and the pinpoint accuracy with
which he and Wright nail the experiences of forty-somethings
bidding sad farewell to their youth. But then the
twist comes, as King's crew learns that their hometown
has been taken over by pod people from outer space.
Their nostalgic drinking game quickly becomes a battle
for survival, with the fate of the world in the
It's amazing how well the two halves of
the equation work, bound together by Wright's usual
comedic touch, but finding common threads in
surprising ways. Most of us suspected that the
soulless drones in our home town were actually from
outer space, after all, and what is an apocalyptic
invader if not a schoolyard bully in jumped-up form?
The World's End realizes those concepts so
beautifully because it understands every corner of
them, and gives each facet equal attention so that
they feel like a natural fit.
That brings the Cornetto trilogy to a
more than fitting conclusion, brightening a fairly
benighted year at the movies while reminding us that
some filmmakers are still deeply in touch with the
experiences of their intended audiences. Wright and
Pegg were always of our tribe, of that we have no
doubt. The joy and pain they show us here -- filtered
through a brilliantly absurd lens, but still on full
display -- haven't been dulled by their Hollywood
success. Nor have the affectionate jabs that gave
these two their street cred. Judging by this effort,
said cred is here to stay for a good long time.
THE DISC: Solid image and sound
quality are married to a decent (though not
mindblowing) set of extras.
WORTH IT? Beyond a doubt. Fans
know what they're in for here and newcomers should be
enchanted by the mixture of Gen-X angst and potent
sci-fi satire that it offers in spades.
RECOMMENDATION: This admirable
conclusion to the Cornetto trilogy doesn't quite make
the list of the year's best discs, but its casual
brilliance means that no science fiction lover should
let it pass by.
- Rob Vaux