There is nothing certain but death and taxes is one of those awkwardly cliched readily-accepted truisms that is trotted out whenever people are struggling to make informed comment on an unexpected turn of events.
To this much-over used phrase you could well have added “… and any film by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost being uproariously, imaginatively, side-splittingly funny”.
Well you could have done so, right up until the release of The World’s End that is.
And now? Not nearly so easily.
For while the final installment in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy aka Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy does have its truly funny moments, they are few and far between, pale imitations of the guffawing laughs that greeted Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the first two films to grace this tongue-in-cheek titled groupings of films.
And that’s a pity since the idea that drives the plot, that humanity is in danger from patronising alien interlopers who have chosen to stealthily invade Earth Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style (though this time with “blanks” who squirt blue goo when injured) via the small unremarkable English village of Newton Haven, is a wildly over the top ripe-for-sustained silliness one.
It’s the sort of ludicrously hilarious premise that is ripe for exploitation in all manner of crazy, satirical ways by a team that is well skilled in doing just that, and so it is with every justification in the soon-to-end world, that you plonk yourself into your cinema seat ready for a Dr Seuss-ian “Oh the [funny] places you’ll go!” cinematic experience.
Alas what you get, while amusing, and imaginative in its own way, is not the wildly extravagant highly original comic-turn you were counting on.
You could blame that damned economics law of diminishing returns – the more times you do something, the less satisfying it gets – largely because The World’s End does suffer from a niggling sense that we have been to this genre-mixing well before, and the bucket has now sprung one almighty leak.
You can hardly blame the three men for trying again since their previous efforts have resulted in films worth their weight in comic gold and they remain some of the most consistently funny people on the planet.
And naturally, you cannot leave a trilogy uncompleted.
Indeed if you’re British, the imperative is not simply to complete a trilogy but over-complete it as Douglas Adams did in his five book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.
So of course making a third film was never not an option and I’m sure that when the idea sprang forth to riff on the idea of five men re-living their youth on a 12 pub, ale-guzzling crawl in the town they all rushed to escape at the first available opportunity where they uncover an alien plot to neuter humanity’s more violent tendencies so we can be ushered into a galactic community of peace-loving civilisations – PHEW! – it all sound so impossibly hilarious it was practically begging to be made.
Unfortunately the riotously clever idea, which comes complete with passing, somewhat superficial commentary on the passing of time, the fateful choices we make in life, and even the willfulness of modern material consumption, never quite gets going despite the best efforts of a seriously talented cast.
And The World’s End has brought some amazing people on board to fight the supposed end of the world.
Front and centre of course is Simon Pegg as eternal teenager Gary King who ruled the roost at high school but has failed to make much of life since, and Nick Frost, playing against type as a buttoned-down lawyer who very reluctantly agrees to recreate their failed pub crawl of twenty years despite his now estranged friendship with Gary, a character who veers between hilarious and freakishly annoying in the space of one scene.
Joining them are Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steve (Paddy Considine), all of whom have done well for themselves in life, and don’t really need to relive past “glories” as much as the desperate to recapture something anything Gary is.
Rounding out the troop who set out on a simple pub crawl (although you learn very quickly that nothing is simple with Gary) and end up locked in a desperate fight for humanity’s survival is Sam (Rosamund Pike), with whom Steve and Gary were in love (or in lust in Gary’s case), who rescues them all in the nick of time after their confrontation with the aliens.
All of these formidable talents acquit themselves wonderfully well with Freeman, Marsan and Considine almost stealing the show.
If it wasn’t for their presence, it’s highly doubtful The World’s End would have ended up being as funny as it is.
And yes, it is funny, and chaotic, and riotously silly.
All of those good things.
It’s just that, in the end, a rather muted talk-your-way-of-trouble end at that, it just doesn’t add up to as much as you might have hoped it would, and you’re left watching the world exit stage left with not so much a theatrical bang as a melodramatically-limp, pale-imitation-of-what-came-before whimper.