Syvology is PROUD TO PRESENT a very special guest commentator for your intellectual enjoyment:
My roommate and I were running late for the 8:30pm showing of The World’s End on Friday. Late by my standards at least. We took our seats at 8:23ish and didn’t miss the previews. We were, however, stuck in the second row, which meant stiff necks all around for the rest of the weekend. Don’t worry, I didn’t write this to tell you about the overwhelming hardships in my life, I just want to tell you about some great movies and why I love them so.
Shaun of the Dead, the first film in Edgar Wright’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ (named for the ice cream cones featured in each film) debuted in 2004 to strong critical reviews and quickly developed a cult following. It stars Simon Pegg as Shaun, a directionless goof searching for meaning in his otherwise-bland life. It co-stars Nick Frost as his slacker roommate Ed, an unemployed man-child who refuses to even pretend about the world outside the duo’s living room. The set-up could be used to describe any number of Judd Apatow movies, except for the wonderful complication of a burgeoning zombie apocalypse wreaking havoc on their suburban town (and the world).
Simultaneously satirizing and paying homage to the zombie-horror classics of George A. Romero, the film mixes subtle wit, physical comedy, solid action, and surprising heart throughout its efficient ninety-nine minutes. From the opening scene it’s clear that co-writers Pegg and Wright have a great deal of admiration for Dawn of the Dead, and the feeling resonates throughout the film and to the audience. The first time I saw Shaun of the Dead, I didn’t just leave the theater happy because the movie is hilarious and heartfelt (it is, and if it were 2004 I hope that quote would make the poster), but also because Pegg, Wright and Frost tap into the shared cultural experience of watching zombie movies and loving them. They speak the language of pop-culture like their contemporaries Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (Wright did a fake trailer for the Grindhouse films) and help give new life (zombie pun!) to a genre that had otherwise grown stale through years of laziness and neglect.
Hot Fuzz (2007) is a similarly smart send-up of blockbuster action films, particularly buddy actioners like Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys and (of course) Point Break. Pegg plays by-the-book police officer Nicholas Angel, a cop so good he is asked to leave London for making the other officers look bad. He meets bungling officer Danny Butterman (Frost) on his new assignment in Sandford, and yes, hilarity ensues. The movie features remarkable set pieces given the paltry (by blockbuster standards) fourteen million dollar budget, and mixes in the humor and warmth that is a hallmark of all three films.
I recently re-watched the film in anticipation of The World’s End and was excited to see how well it holds up. A great deal of the comedy is referential, but even my viewing partner who hadn’t seen Bad Boys, Point Break OR Lethal Weapon found it entertaining and fun. For me, it brought memories of the first time I saw Mel Gibson and his glorious mullet electrocuted by Gary Busy, the first time I saw Will Smith and Martin Lawrence hold up a store clerk for Tropical Fruit Bubblicious and Skittles, and the first time I saw Keanu Reeves shoot up in the air and shout ‘AARGHGH!’ The beauty is that the movie is not a schlocky, one-note rip-off (I’m looking at you, Scary Movies 2-5) but an excellent original work, and as good a buddy action film as I have ever seen.
I obviously had high hopes entering The World’s End and it did not disappoint. I won’t give away too much, but Wright, Pegg and Frost are all on top of their respective games. Even though years of success have brought bigger budgets (the effects of The World’s End dwarf the combined effects of other two films), the movie still has the heart that so many movies lacked this summer. It was as much about growing up as it was about fighting a crew of science fiction foes; equal parts Say Anything and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and if you know how much I love John Cusack movies, you know how big a compliment that is.
With so many sequels/prequels out this summer, I had almost forgotten how good multi-film series can be. As much as I enjoyed Iron Man 3,The Wolverine, Man Of Steel and even Fast 6, I never walked away from any of those films feeling like they did much more than satisfy a corporate need to create another blockbuster. The World’s End is a great original work that lovingly-satirizes sci-fi and popular culture, while maintaining the verve of the previous Cornetto features. Numerous supporting actors from the first two films are involved. The camera work and script immediately slides back into a familiar groove. The music instantly reminded me of the British Invasion of the early 90’s (Ok I was a bit young for that, but who doesn’t love Blur?!), and the science fiction references are everywhere without becoming a burden. The film manages the wonderful trick of speaking a familiar cultural language while bringing something new to the table, something that most movies this summer were too lazy or scared to even try.
It was a fitting end to a great trilogy. I laughed, I cried, I did neck rolls to try and avoid minor paralysis (it mostly worked) and I left smiling because I was reminded of the great movies I’d seen before, and the great one I’d just left.
TAKEAWAY – Go see it right now! Are you really going to skip it forThe Butler?