Edgar Wright, 11 mins, 15

Jonathan Romney on The World's End: Invasion of the lager snatchers

4.00

Pegg, Frost and Wright end their 'Cornetto' trilogy with a clever, touching comedy

The press notes for his comedy The World's End come with a request from director Edgar Wright not to reveal the plot twists and the actors not already featured in the trailer. After checking online, I'm confident that most of what I could tell you about this follow-up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz is already in the public domain. It stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it's about a pub crawl, it features robots with bright blue lights in their eyes and, as the title suggests, apocalypse is involved. There are one or two unexpected names, one of whom is solely a vocal presence, and you'll guess who the second you hear it. Oh, and while this won't come as any surprise to Pegg-Frost-Wright fans, there's a Cornetto gag.

One surprise I didn't see coming, though, was how much fun The World's End is. It's about five men who went on an abortive pub crawl as small-town teenagers in 1990, and reunite in 2013 to finish the job. The World's End fittingly has the air of a fond, slightly nervous reunion, rather like an overdue album by a beloved band; you hope it'll be a bit different to their last, but not too different. And a lot rides on it, because Pegg and Frost without Wright (in alien road comedy Paul) didn't quite pay off, while Wright, sans the other two, gave us the exhaustingly scattershot Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

But The World's End is good – perhaps not as full-bloodedly joyous as 2007's cop spoof Hot Fuzz, but a more complete, more crafted film. It's touching too, with Pegg and Wright's script showing a sharp, rueful eye for human imperfection. Pegg plays Gary King, erstwhile teenage alpha dude in shades and a Sisters of Mercy T-shirt, now a desperate, self-deluding 40-year-old on the skids – in shades and a Sisters of Mercy T-shirt. Staring failure in the face, he's determined to revisit his home town, Newton Haven, and have another crack at the 12-pub marathon he remembers as the best night of his life – because nothing has remotely matched up since. He gets his old gang together – now successful, settled professionals reluctantly playing along. They're played by Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Frost as long-time teetotaller Andy (no prizes for guessing who's first to hit the tequila shots).

Where Shaun and Fuzz were genre spoofs from the start, The World's End sets up as a bittersweet observational sitcom. For the first stretch, it focuses on the lamentable state of Gary, who can't face either adult life or the realisation that his teenage glory wasn't such a big deal in the first place. His present self only serves to clarify that the young god was pretty much a dork too – as one-time flame Sam (Rosamund Pike) is there to remind him.

In a sense, though, Gary has a point – adulthood can be a tedious business. That's where the film is so clever: it's pitched both at the hip young audience who love the genre-nudging irreverence of the trio's films, but also at viewers of Pegg's age and older who will relate to the middle-aged melancholy (and no doubt get all teary on hearing early Nineties tunes by the Soup Dragons and the Sundays). And everyone will recognise the horror of middle-England drabness that is Newton Haven, with its antiseptic pubs and streets lined with Costcutter and Superdrug.

The genre element echoes Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the John Wyndham-inspired Village of the Damned (those luminous eyes surely a nod to the 1995 John Carpenter version). The film packs a cheerful punch as a knockabout alien-invasion spoof – unusually, one structured around a series of barroom brawls – but still manages to use its science fiction premise as a metaphor for social conformity. Wright and Pegg's three "Cornetto" films are united by a coherent philosophy: a rueful nerd's-eye contemplation of the demand to grow up and put your Star Wars action figures away, but at the same time a determined resistance to capitulation and dull responsibility. They combine a love of nostalgia with unease at its stifling tendencies; this film's best set piece, capturing the infantilising horror of our obsession with retaining youth, is a pub's School Disco Night.

The film's main flaw is that, despite its concentration on character and backstory, only Pegg's Gary comes across as properly fleshed out (the other roles more or less make up the numbers, although Pike and Marsan get most chance to hold their own). But Pegg's role lets him be obnoxious, overbearing and embarrassing – almost Gervaisian, in fact – and it's a tour de force.

Overall, The World's End is breezy, sharp, to the point. And while it's had a few bob spent on it, and Wright is no slouch at dishing out a proper Spielbergian light show, The World's End still has a quintessentially British tang of cheap-and-cheerful about it. A proper draught, and no nasty additives.

Critic's Choice

Carry On Cleo! Elizabeth Taylor is regally Egyptian once again in the re-released Cleopatra (1963), as opulently excessive an epic as you'll ever see … they really don't make them like this any more. Also, Spain produces its own black-and-white silent retro oddity in Pablo Berger's fairy tale with a twist Biancanieves (Snow White to you).

 

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea