Judd Apatow, despite his streak of weak, flabby comedies, has the comedy market cornered. A film brandished with his name automatically possesses a prestigious weight. I imagine just the whisper of his name alone can get a comedy project green lighted at a major studio. If you ask me, the monopoly the Apatow name has over the comedy genre is a bit unwarranted, especially when a name like Edgar Wright, the fantastic British director who hasn’t made a bad film, is only recognized amidst dedicated film groups. Wright’s films aren’t unlike the work of Apatow. Both writer/directors typically play around with the same motley crew, while excavating a great deal of heart from ludicrous punch lines. The clear difference between the two directors, outside of Wright’s satirical approach to genre filmmaking, is the notion of structure. Actually, Wright is better than most comedic screenwriters simply because he understands the significance of a narrative structure, preventing his films from feeling like a collection of unbalanced comedic vignettes. Framework and heart make Wright’s newest film, The World’s End, the last film of his Cornetto trilogy, the optimal comedy of the year.
At the forefront of The World’s End is Simon Pegg as Gary King, a forty something loser who is harboring a lust for drugs and is continuously mystified by the past. Gary, with no particular future in sight, reminisces of his failed attempt to complete the “Golden Mile”, a one night adventure predicated on drinking a pint of ale at 12 local pubs. Intending to resurrect a 23-year-old failure where he and his four best mates failed to reach the World’s End, the Golden Mile’s last pub, Gary playfully manipulates his four long-lost friends into partaking in his grandiose plan to tie up loose ends. Upon their arrival back home, Gary expects a hero’s welcome, but comes to find that the setting for his glorious youth has evolved into something else entirely. The change in the town is seemingly reflected in the new lives of his four friends. Where Gary yearns for the days his last name wasn’t ironic, his bemused friends (played by Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, and Paddy Considine) are less enthused about reigniting the past. Dissension between Gary and his now responsible friends is inevitable. But Gary’s reclamation of the past is interrupted when the crew comes to realize their town is facing an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers situation, with the town’s citizens being replaced by vicious drones. An adventure about reclaiming the past mutates into a battle for preserving the future.
The boys, at Gary’s behest, slip from bar to bar, in a drunken stupor no less, outrunning a town dedicated towards human consumption. Once again, Wright has concocted a vibrant film, one with genuine emotions and well-earned laughs, that playfully embraces and contorts the veil of a genre. In the case of The World’s End, he uses apocalypse and invasion films as tools for exploring a man’s arrested development, as well as our incessant need to rekindle a flame that has been snuffed out over time. Wright’s writing, namely the tiny incisions he makes into our character’s soul at the film’s beginning, earnestly establishes the laughs and gut punches that emanate throughout his dissection of the sci-fi genre. While watching The World’s End unfold in front of me, it became more and more clear that this was exactly what This is the End wanted to be, but the friendship at the core of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s apocalyptic comedy was superficial. Meaningful moments offering introspection into a failing relationship cropped up sporadically, only acting as a thread that binds a collection of disparate jokes and scenes together.
I certainly enjoyed This is the End, but The World’s End is a more sincere and complete film. Adding more depth to Wright’s efforts is a fantastic collection of actors, none of which are more impressive than Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as they both deliver a great deal of solemnity along with their uncanny comedic abilities. Watching the two play off one another is a treat, and watching both of them fight blue blooded robots, along with Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine, is beyond pleasurable. For those who have seen the misunderstood, underappreciated Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, you will experience the same chaotically fun fight sequences in The World’s End. Wright’s camera work alone, which aggressively glides around from character to character, is intoxicating. As is the case with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, The World’s End finds Edgar Wright delivering another madcap film that perfectly blends utter hilarity with impeccably filmed action and emotionally engaging characters. Wright has further established himself as cinema’s most talented comedic talent; he is the new Apatow.