"The World's End," the latest film from director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, marks the third installment in their Cornetto Trilogy, along with the zombie farce "Shaun of the Dead" and the cop comedy "Hot Fuzz." The trilogy takes its name from a British ice cream confection that appears in all three movies, so it's somewhat fitting that critics have found "The World's End" to be a delectable end-of-summer treat.
The Times' Mark Olsen says that after a summer of mindless action movies, and before another solemn awards season, "'The World's End' is the right movie for this moment, a comedy with action and wow-factor effects that's also tinged by regret, a light sadness and a lacerating self-awareness. Even for its flaws, it is hard to ask for more from a late summer movie than 'The World's End.'"
One of the film's major themes is nostalgia — the story involves five adult friends re-attempting a failed pub crawl from their teen years — which might account for why the film "feels at times like a greatest hits compilation" that calls back to the earlier Cornetto films. It also "lags a bit in the middle," Olsen says, but "somehow the sureness of Wright's filmmaking sees it through."
New York magazine's David Edelstein gives a glowing review, calling "The World's End" "arguably the best" of the Cornetto films and "by light-years the most entertaining movie of the year." He also writes, "Wright is an even better director now [compared to 'Shaun' and 'Hot Fuzz'], and the last half-hour of 'The World's End' is one bravura set piece after another. The action is brilliantly staged and shot," and "the all-star cast is perfection."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle also commends the cast: Pegg, who co-wrote the film with Wright, "attacks [his role] with intensity and invention." In addition, "Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan are all talented actors, with Frost and Freeman particularly skilled in comedy, and together the five principals create the sense of men who have known each other for many years. The banter is effortless; the comedy flows."
The New York Times' A.O. Scott says the film "blends genre parody, snappy verbal humor and sublimely preposterous action-movie mayhem." In the beginning, however, "it effectively masquerades … as a rueful, fast-moving comedy of middle-aged resignation and rebellion." Eventually an unexpected plot turn "sends 'The World's End' spinning into an absurdity that must be experienced fresh."
But in spite of that narrative twist, Scott says that "Wright also, in some ways, plays it safe, steering clear of anything too ugly or shocking as he keeps all forms of seriousness at bay. His project is childish fun with adult language and grown-up costumes, and he executes it with energy and precision."
Slate's Dana Stevens isn't shy with her praise. She writes, "The five actors constitute a superb ensemble, creating a group dynamic that's as toxic as it is hilarious. Wright keeps things moving with whiz-bang in-camera tricks, action choreographed by Jackie Chan's longtime stunt coordinator, and pop music from [the main characters'] salad days … I think you can deduce from the foregoing that I pretty much unreservedly loved 'The World's End,' whose compact dramatic structure and steady flow of good jokes puts most mainstream American comedies … to shame."
The Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek is more measured, but still positive in her review, writing, "'The World's End' is a big, shaggy dog of a thing, a free-spirited ramble held together by off-kilter asides, clever-dumb puns, and seemingly random bits of dialogue that could almost become catchphrases in spite of themselves."
She continues: "The exuberance of Wright's movies is always their strong suit. But structurally, they're so loose-jointed — held together with rubber bands, pieces of string, and other bits and bobs — that they almost fall apart even as you're watching them .… Wright's movies can be great fun, but they demand that you live in their moment, because once they're over, you're left with little more than a handful of chuckles."