I wish I could be more positive about this film. There are many things to like about it, and I did like it, mostly. But it also left me unsatisfied and I can’t help thinking that ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’ (the joke name given to Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and this) is a diminishing one, each film less satisfying than the previous. And, continuing back, not so good as the TV series, Spaced, either.
Part of the problem is familiarity. Edgar Wright’s directorial style, as applied to Simon Pegg and his own writing, is less thrilling now we’ve seen it repeatedly. Yet Wright’s ‘solo’ outing, the underrated Scott Pilgrim vs the World, shows he has more tricks up his sleeve, and I still have hopes for Ant Man.
A brief precis of the set-up: A group of school leavers in the 1990s try to complete a pub crawl around their sleepy, small home town but fail to finish. Twenty years later one of them, Gary King (Simon Pegg), gets the group together to try again. Gary, originally seen as ‘the cool kid’ and the leader of the gang, is now a fuck-up, having not been able to move on or make anything of his life, while his friends (a superb cast, with Nick Frost being joined by Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan) have all moved on and regard Gary, rightly, as someone best avoided. Despite their reservations, Gary manages to persuade them to indulge him but their pub-crawl doesn’t go to plan, as there is something odd about the townsfolk (plot-spoiler already given by all the pre-publicity for the film: they’re aliens).
One of the good things about the film is the role-reversal of Pegg and Frost, with Frost being given the opportunity to play the straight-laced type and Pegg a really quite unlikeable lead. There are plenty of good jokes, if no really great ones, well delivered by impeccable actors and the film rattles along nicely – until the threat arrives. When the aliens are introduced, most of the pathos and character disappears, and the humour from it, and is replaced by much running around, to no great effect. And the end of the film, while attempting to be both surprising and consistent with what went before, was to me unconvincing and disappointing, one of those that probably looked better on the page than it did on the screen.
One I liked, but not as much as I wanted to.