Recently, when you think of an American genre spoof movie, you think of Scary Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Date Movie, Disaster Movie, Vampires Suck, Superhero Movie and any other movie that has either a genre’s name of the word “movie” in the title. They’re not funny and they’re not worth watching. Luckily, we have the Brits to show us how it’s done.
America was first introduced to the collaborating trio of friends Edgar Wright (writer/director), Simon Pegg (writer/star) and Nick Frost (star) in 2004 with Shaun of the Dead, an original movie that infused quick English humor with bloody zombie attacks. Sure, Shaun spoofs the zombie genre, but it does so in a fashion that’s become foreign to American spoofs – it doesn’t re-enact scenes from familiar movies. Instead, Shaun stands on its own two legs – one planted in a great zombie story, the other in a hilarious comedy. In 2007, the trio gave us the second film in their unofficial trilogy, Hot Fuzz. The same model was used for Fuzz, only instead of falling in the zombie genre, Fuzz was a purely police-based action flick – and it’s brilliant. Now they’re rounding out their “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy in the end-of-the-world genre, and The World’s End just might be their most ambitious film to date.
With completely immature characters, The World’s End is easily the most mature of the three pictures. Pegg (whom you would recognize from the recent Mission: Impossible and Star Trek movies) plays a rock-bottom misfit looking to return to the one moment of happiness in his life – to the last night of high school over 20 years earlier. That night, he and his four friends set out on an epic pub crawl called “The Golden Mile.” 12 pints from 12 pubs over the distance of one mile, the last pub being “The World’s End.” In pure desperation, Pegg gets the band back together to complete the pub crawl that they failed to complete 20 years earlier. His gang includes Martin Freeman (Bilbo in The Hobbit), Paddy Considine (the Guardian reported in The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Legacy), Eddie Marsan (Hancock) and, of course, Nick Frost (Paul and Snow White and the Huntsman).
Shortly after starting The Golden Mile (and 30 minutes into the movie), they begin to notice something strange. The town seems the same, but the people have changed. The townsfolk are somewhat like “The Stepford Wives.” It quickly becomes obvious that, in a body-snatcher sense, the people aren’t themselves. Are they aliens? Are they robots? What’s going on? Just like the gang, you’ll have to make it to The World’s End to uncover the truth.
Of the trilogy, The World’s End ranks number three in my book for entertainment value – Hot Fuzz being number one – but it’s still a hilarious comedy. In a few months, The World’s End will proudly join Shaun and Fuzz on my Blu-ray shelves. There are a few aspect that leave me ranking it in third. First, it takes too long to get going. Second, the action is so amazing that it left me wanting more. Third, the ending is the most daring thing that they’ve written yet. It’s “out there.” Although the climax is not quite what I expected, I still like it, but I think that it could have been stronger. Mind you, all three of these “faults” are the result of Wright and Pegg maturing – which is brilliant – so it really doesn’t hurt the film because it’s still excelling in an equally important area.
I’ve liked plenty of American comedies this year, but the British sure are ahead of us in this genre. Our cookie-cutter comedies are good for one viewing, but these British ones – especially those from Edgar Wright (I’m including Scott Pilgrim vs. the World here) – are gems with a much higher rate of watchability. With each repeat viewing you’ll catch onto jokes that flew past you the first few times. They never get old. If you want to see an R-rated comedy of true value, look no further than The World’s End.
Photo credit: Focus Features