I was trawling through my music collection recently and I realised afresh that I’ve been buying less music than I used to. That’s a common pattern, I think; as you sail through your 30s you discover that you really do need to make sure that you have money left for other things too. However hard you try, unless your pay packet is unnaturally inflated, you just can’t buy music the way you used to. Music streaming services help, but you just can’t shake the feeling that however good the reasons, you’ve lost touch a bit and you shouldn’t really be listening to the same things quite so often.
Which is an appropriate way to finally come to The World’s End, the third film in the loose ‘Cornetto’ trilogy, the first two of which remain among my most loved films. This one didn’t get a cinema release in South Africa, so I had to wait for a recent trip to the UK to smuggle a DVD back into the country with me. As we sat down to finally see it, I was in equal parts excited and nervous. Excited because director Edgar Wright is a masterful director of comedy, eschewing the obvious and staid for the inventive and memorable. Nervous, because I’ve been let down by many films and didn’t want to happen here. I’d approached Hot Fuzz, the second film in a similar way. I enjoyed it, but felt faintly led down after; it was only on re-viewings that I realised just how funny it was and grew to love it almost as much as the matchless first film, Shaun Of The Dead.
We’re in tribute-pastiche territory again, with five old schoolmates uniting in their hometown to complete a legendary 12-hostelry pub crawl they left incomplete back in the day. All but one of them – Gary the ring leader, the most admired/reviled of the group (Simon Pegg) – have moved on in life and revisit youth with mixed feelings. Gary has his issues too; he just hides them in plain sight.
As the pub crawl moves along, soundtracked by alarming number of the songs I’ve been revisiting just a bit too often, inevitably the story expands to take in aliens and plot turns out of Hitchhikers and Stepford. Much that made the first two films great is present and still great; the remixed recurring jokes, the brilliantly fight scenes, the scene transitions, the character interactions. As comedies go, it has more laughs than many.
I really, really liked it; but I didn’t embrace it. The first two films have affection for that which they are making fun of; and the characters are all good people to be with. Here there’s the former, but not always the latter. For Gary to be such a central figure you need to have something likeable about him to hold onto, and that’s worryingly absent here. In addition, if you’re going to take on faceless corporations and the flattening of local town commerce by corporations and chains, you have to give it a face. Which there isn’t here. You know the target is there, and many of the jokes are good ones. You just can’t quite join the dots, and the ending doesn’t quite do it well enough to really work.
Much of which I said in a very similar way at the time about Hot Fuzz. So it may well eventually take a place alongside its two forbears in my most-loved files. For now it’s close, but not quite close enough.
I watched this film at home on DVD.
I rated this film 7/10 on imdb.com and 4/5 on rottentomatoes.com