Friday, 9 August 2013

Three Flavours Cornetto: Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013) Review

It may have taken almost 10 years, but with the release of The World’s End, writer/director Edgar Wright, (writer/actor) Simon Pegg and (actor) Nick Frost have finally completed the last film in the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (the name being a reference to the fact that each of the three films features the popular ice-cream in some form, albeit of a different flavour each time around, and also being a play on the name of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy). Among the funniest films of the last decade, each movie takes on a different genre in a uniquely British way and together they prove that, in spite of the efforts of the makers of films such as Date Movie, Dance Movie and the like, the parody is far from dead.

This trilogy of surprisingly well-made films put Wright, Pegg and Frost (who had previously collaborated on the TV series Spaced) on the map, and while none of the trio has yet managed to meet the same heights on their own (although Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World comes pretty close and Marvel has signed him on to direct the upcoming Ant-Man), it bodes well for the future of comedy and British cinema in general.

Strawberry Cornetto: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

On the day of the zombie apocalypse, Shaun (Simon Pegg), a 29 year old store clerk with no future prospects, tries to reconcile his relationship with his mum, win back his ex-girlfriend and sort out his life, all with the assistance of his best friend Ed (Nick Frost), an even bigger loser than himself.

You know how, in many movies, ordinary people suddenly develop military levels of competency when faced with a crisis of epic proportions? Well, Shaun of the Dead isn’t one of those movies. Shaun of the Dead shows how ordinary people probably would really act when faced with a horde of flesh-eating zombies. With no survival skills to speak of, Shaun and friends arm themselves with the only weapons they can find – cricket bats, hockey sticks and the like – and head straight for the safest place they can think of – the local pub. Much of the humour derives from their utter incompetence, but if your idea of fun is watching people beat zombies about the head with heavy objects, then you’ll find it hilarious. The Deus Ex Machina ending is a little abrupt and highly improbable, but it’s still a nice change from the usual downer endings that the majority of zombie movies have these days.

Genre: Horror (a zom-rom-com)
Best Moment: Shaun and his friends attacking a zombie with pool cues in time to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy

Vanilla Cornetto: Hot Fuzz (2007)

400% better than anyone else, Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is the most effective cop on the London Police Force. So much so that he is transferred to Sandford, a quiet village in the country, in order to stop making everyone else around him look bad. Partnered with PC Danny Butterman (Frost), an oafish local who dreams of being just like the cops in his favourite movies, Point Break and Bad Boys 2, Angel initially has difficulties adjusting to Sandford’s low crime rate, but this soon changes when he begins to suspect that a serial killer is on the loose in the village.

Hot Fuzz is not just my favourite of the Cornetto trilogy, but one of my top 10 movies of all time. I’ve seen this movie five times now and I still enjoy it as much as the first time. What starts off slowly as a small town murder mystery comedy, much like a Miss Marple mystery with more laughs and a lot more (over the top) blood, builds up to a final half hour that beautifully pays off everything that has gone before it in a full blown parody of all the movies Danny adores.

The relationship between Angel and Danny that develops throughout the film is actually kind of sweet and it’s interesting to note that many of the scenes between these characters initially started off as scenes between Angel and a love interest who was dropped from the screenplay after the first draft. The love interest’s lines were simply transferred over to Danny in later drafts, often with minimal changes.

Genre: Action/Mystery
Best Moment: The entire final half hour and any scene involving the swan.
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton

Mint Cornetto: The World’s End (2011)

20 years after he and his four friends attempted a pub crawl through all twelve pubs in their small village, middle-aged loser Gary King (Pegg) rounds up his old friends Andy (Frost), Oliver, Pete and Steve for a second attempt. However, what starts of as an ill-advised reunion between old friends, soon takes a turn for the worse when the gang discover that their home town has been taken over by killer robots and the only way to make it out alive is to complete what they started and make it to the final pub, The World’s End.

Much higher in budget and more serious in tone than the previous two films in the trilogy, The World’s End is less of a comedy (although it is still funny) and more a science-fiction film in its own right, in the vein of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives. With Pegg and Frost now in their forties, it’s certainly a more mature film than Shaun or Hot Fuzz and deals with characters at a different stage in their lives – all of Gary’s friends are married with jobs and kids. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also got a lot more depth to it than the earlier films and part of the fun is watching these seemingly respectable adults regressing back to who they were at 17.

The World’s End is a very clever film; the sort that can only get better with multiple viewings. As with Hot Fuzz, many of the seemingly minor details from the first half of the film are paid-off in the second half, and the names of the pubs provide clever tip-offs to what is going to happen therein, all of which are easily missed the first time around. I can imagine some people being disappointed with this film, in that it’s not the same as the two films that went before. Nevertheless, after making allowances for my preconceived expectations, I enjoyed it immensely. I considered it to be one of the best sci-fi films I’ve seen in a while; a film which manages to twist and turn in ways I often didn’t see coming; and in my mind, it provided a fitting conclusion to one of the best movie trilogies of all time. 

Genre: Sci-Fi
Best Moment: Gary and his friends discussing how many Musketeers there actually were.
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, Paddy Considine

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