Slightly extravagant Saturday night – family outing to the Duke of York’s in Brighton with Partner plus teenage kids. Treated the family to balcony seats and various indulgent snacks/drinks, and settled down to enjoy The World's End, which Peter Bradshaw of el Guardian had promised was the best of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy of films.
These showcase the talents of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. But what is Bradshaw thinking of? I didn't laugh once, nor did anyone else (on the balcony, anyway). I thought this was vastly inferior to Shaun of the Dead (genius) and Hot Fuzz (hilarious). This is neither as clever nor as likable as Wright's earlier films, and lacks narrative energy and focus.
The basic set-up is that Gary King, a posing loser, mysteriously persuades four straight/dull old school friends to join him on a pointless pub crawl in their horrible home town. The aim is to drink a pint in each of twelve pubs, which they failed to do on a memorable evening way back in the 90s. The 'reunion' device is creaky and contrived, and we share the boredom of Gary's posse till some blue-blooded robots arrive on the scene.
At this point, there is plenty of fighting, which I suppose is what the demographic wants. But what is being spoofed? In Shaun of the Dead, the zombie genre was brilliantly parodied. In Hot Fuzz the references to US cop shows with a touch of Wicker Man thrown in worked perfectly. Here - what? David Tennant era Dr Who? Bit niche. Robots in general? I couldn't say. There is touch of The Road, too, which made me wish they had made Viggo Mortensen and his pram the butt of their Cornetto humour - dystopian misery is ripe for lambasting, surely?
The buddy element was disappointing, too. For me, the Pegg/Frost formula is running out of steam: we don't 'get' the dynamic between them till the climax, and the relationship between the five pub crawlers is woefully underdeveloped. Nearest thing to a laugh for me was Paddy Considine's line: ‘Cards on the table. I am currently seeing a 26 year old fitness instructor, but if you’ll have me I’ll leave her in a heartbeat.’ More one-liners would have helped.
Also under-explored was the idea of crap/clone towns and their robotic inhabitants. Sound concept– but how did the plot dramatise this idea? The aesthetic isn't as stylish or original as that of the other two movies, and the visual jokes were patchy and inconsistent. Altogether, a more bloated and less entertaining film than I expected.
Perhaps I am not enough of a sci-fi aficionado to get the jokes. Or perhaps there just weren't as many jokes in there this time. (Though other, proper critics clearly disagree. Not only am I at variance with Mr Bradshaw, this film is 89 per cent 'Fresh' on Rotten Tomatoes.) But I just don't understand. Are Wright & Co too famous to fail?
I may be in a tiny minority, but I prefer their earlier, funnier movies