People say that watching a harrowingly disappointing film by a filmmaker you adore is like getting bitten by a beloved family pet.
But I think it's more like going into the Beloved Family Petshop and buying what you're sure is going to be yet another happy contributor to your long line of Beloved Family Pets for your Beloved Family Family only for it to turn out to be a sociopathic stick insect. And it makes you re-think your fondness for the Beloved Family Petshop. Maybe there's been something wrong with every pet you've ever bought from it.
The World's End, by affable geek icons Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, is the third and final part of the fondly nicknamed Cornetto Trilogy, following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
The World’s End was so bad that it made me re-think my love for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - and even Spaced. Even Spaced! Can you imagine that? Can you imagine how poor I must think The World's End is?
Pretty fecking poor.
It took me so long to see the film because I did what everyone secretly knows they should do: I judged the book by its cover.
I passed it every day on my way to work, and then again on my way back. And I thought, okay, so you can kind of see the personalities of each character in this poster. The intrepid, the serious, the distracted, the cowardly, the wildcard, the woman, the -
Wait, what was that last one?
Sure enough, in the film itself, her role is woman. She's just a woman; that's her primary trait. Her secondary trait is that she says "crumbs" all the time, which makes me want to headbutt her.
Her third and final trait is that she's a bad driver.
To be fair, the other characters aren't exactly vividly developed either. Sometimes, when they're hanging around in the background, you get the impression that the actors aren't really sure how their characters should be behaving. Giving that kind of job to the likes of Paddy Considine should be against the law.
The rest of the cast was also worthy of delighted wriggles, with cameos by other fiercely adored Pegg/Wright favourites like Julia Deakin, Rafe Spall, Bill Nighy, and David Bradley (currently best known for playing the game-changing Walder Frey in Game of Thrones). There was also Pierce Brosnan’s teeth, with Pierce Brosnan attached, and I don't know why.
As for the plot, I sort of want to sum it up with a groaning sigh. It was messy and pointless, unappealing and unsurprising. And unfunny, it was all so bloody unfunny for a Pegg/Wright script.
Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who obsessively misses being a teenager, and still acts like one. His friends have all moved on, but he gets them back together for a big pub crawl just like old times. Mid-crawl, they find out that the people in their hometown have been replaced by robot clones, and the world ends around them while they try to complete the pub crawl.
Sounds like quite a fun plot, but it's ruined by unoriginality and narrative cowardice. Some boys turn into robots in the gents and beat them up. But why? And who cares? It's not funny or exciting or charming, unlike, say, the hilarious and disgusting zombie revelation scene in Shaun of the Dead. ("There's a girl in the garden. In the garden there's a girl.")
Compare its clumsy, boring descent into anarchy with its predecessor's incongruous, momentous horse scene. ("... Morning.")
The World's End just didn't seem to have much joy to it.
And speaking of joy, at the heart of every movie starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Due to their real life closeness and compatibility, they're a recipe for comedy-drama gold. Not this time, though. This time, their relationship has no room to kick off.
The character of Nick Frost's no-nonsense lawyer feels like it's based exclusively on Frost saying "I don't want to play a moron this time". As for Simon Pegg's Gary, the idea is that he still behaves like a teenager, but does Pegg remember what teenagers are like? Doesn’t seem like it. It's kind of like the adult lead in Freaky Friday. Adults who try and act like teenagers end up like grinning, over-energetic seven year olds.
Teenagers are moody, arrogant, and either brutally cocky or emotionally philosophical. Gary’s voiceover sounds like he's a new Doctor Who companion.
And there's a disturbing little twist to Gary that has no place in this frivolous crap. He refuses to roll up his sleeve. Why? You can guess why. The bandage on his wrist isn't that hard to spot.
Is it really okay to use attempted suicide as a throwaway character device?
Also (and don't just roll your eyes at this, or you're as bad as they are) don't you think it's about time Pegg/Frost characters had a romantic relationship with each other?
The Pegg/Frost/Wright trio have shown that they're not afraid to inject poker-faced romance into their work from time to time. They billed Shaun of the Dead as a zomromcom, and if you listen to those guys speak in real life you can tell they're a bunch of romantics.
Yeah, you could argue that the Pegg/Frost duo is about a close, epic, platonic relationship - like Tim and Daisy - but they've done that now. To hilarious and sometimes moving effect. But it's done. They've succeeded. The end. Isn't it time for the unbeatable duo to try something new? You can get a lot of comedy out of romance, and it doesn't have to define a film.
Homoeroticism is a running gag in their duo, from Tim and Mike's nonchalant hand-holding in Spaced, to Angel and Danny's "fake-almost kiss" in Hot Fuzz. On the DVD commentaries, they take this quite seriously. Platonic lovers.
But does the homoerotic side to this awesome comedy partnership still have to be a just a gag? Why?
Seriously, though; why? Fear of being seen as gay, or fear of portraying gay characters? Or just the belief that portraying gay characters is simply not an option?
I think there's a word for that.
The repetition of character types like that is one of the things that has made me look sadly back at past Pegg/Frost/Wright projects and spot flaws I'd never seen before. For example, I never realised quite how capable this lot are of writing bland, superfluous female characters (with the exception of Daisy in Spaced, who in my opinion remains the best female character in the history of comedy - but we must now assume that this was due exclusively to Jessica Stevenson).
The World's End has severely dented my opinion of the Wright/Pegg gang and their body of work. I hope it's just an initial trauma, though. I hope I'll get over it. Shaun of the Dead is still one of my favourite modern films, and I love Hot Fuzz almost as much.
But I'm not so keen to cuddle them anymore; not after being conned into buying the sociopathic stick insect that is The World's End.