After tearing the roof off Fantasia with crowd-pleasers like Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim, Edgar Wright is prettymuch Fantasia royalty, which explains why the Imperial Theatre practically exploded in a torrent of hot, sweaty nerd-love when he took the stage Tuesday to present his new film, The World’s End, as the official closing film for the 2013 festival.
The long awaited finale to the “Blood and Icecream Trilogy” that started with Shaun and middled with Hot Fuzz, the story this time around is that five friends, in their highschool years, attempted a twelve pub crawl in their sleepy English hometown, but ended up facedown in vomit and failure. Now, many years later, they’ve all grown up and gotten real jobs and bank accounts and ex-wives and probably a few prostate problems if the statistics are to be believed. That is, except for Simon Pegg’s Gary King, who’s stuck in arrested development like a tick in a dog’s arse, and gets the gang back together to try the “golden mile” once again, even though most of them, especially Nick Frost’s Andy, think Gary can go straight to hell.
Of course, things take an odd turn when the gang discovers that their home town is now populated by robot dopplegangers, and decide the best course of action is….to keep getting wasted. Makes sense to me.
The film gets off to a slow start, and I kept thinking to myself that it’ll probably get really funny once the robot shenanigans start, and while I wasn’t wrong, the first little bit of the movie is a tad dead, laugh-wise. Of course, once things start to get weird and the heads start flying, the writing starts getting sharper and it feels like Pegg and co. are back in a familiar groove. The dialogue is fast and punchy, with a gag of some sort virtually every minute. The writing is full of those little quirks and in-jokes we’ve come to expect, like how the names of all the pubs on the Golden Mile give you some hint of how things will go.
There’s an incredible sharpness and wit to the writing that you just don’t see in most American comedies, one that gives the impression someone, or perhaps multiple someones, gave some actual thought to the writing, as opposed to just writing some poop jokes and calling it a day. The characters are also remarkably well-rounded, especially Pegg and Frost. Towards the end, there are a few fairly dark character revelations about Pegg’s character Gary that most American comedies would probably shy away from, in favor of more stoner humor and tedious improv sessions.
All that being said, this is probably the weakest of the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”. While Shaun and Hot Fuzz were rife with in-jokes and references to horror and action movie staples, The World’s End feels a tad less reference-heavy. For some, this could be a good thing, but it definitely makes The World’s End feel like the odd film out. Or maybe there were tons of references and I just missed them, Wright and Pegg are usually subtle enough writers.
But even if The World’s End is the least of the trilogy, that still puts it head and shoulders above most, if not all other comedies you’re likely to find in theaters, and it’ll probably wind up on my list of best films of the year.
And that, my children, is that. Fantasia 2013 has come to a close and is receding into the night like a vampire at dawn, or Ryan Reynolds’ agent after seeing the latest Turbo and RIPD numbers, although with less of an air of manic terror than the latter.
All in all this has probably been the best iteration of the festival I’ve attended thus far, with only a couple of films driving me into a blind rage and more than a couple leaving embarrassing stains theatre seats. I’m already looking forward to coming again next year (you heard me) and for now….I need a damn nap.