Is it possible to make a serious comedy?
It’s not unusual to find funny moments within serious movies: Oldboy, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, Goodfellas. Plenty of great movies out there that can deliver the humor between the grimness, terror and violence. But the dark comedy of Dr. Strangelove, which simultaneous skewers the war pig mentality while delivering laugh after laugh, is the only truly great hilarious/serious flick that comes to my mind.
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and The World’s End crew aren’t able to pull it off like Stanley Kubrick and Peter Sellers did with Strangelove. Thematically, the flick explores the problematic mix of dealing with an idealized adulthood that never comes together when it arrives, as well as leaving behind those missed opportunities that will never return. It’s rich territory to explore, and at moments, The World’s End has some interesting things to say.
Unfortunately (or not), The World’s End is also a comedy about an alien invasion discovered by five guys on a pub crawl as well as the final part of Wright’s and Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, which includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The plot leads to assorted moments of true hilarity – the two main fights, first in a bathroom, then in the pub proper, come to mind – which are the equivalent of Sammo Hung kung fu flick if the warriors going head-to-head were drunken Englishmen and awkward alien robots. The little back biting that starts among the friends eventually involves out-of-control, raging arguments that lead to plenty of laughs.
But reconciling the serious thematic aspects with the goofy plot, it never really happens. You end up with two shorts films that feel incomplete, or one big film that just doesn’t ever quite hit the mark. The balance is rarely found, and never extended beyond brief moments.
In the end, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re thinking of watching The World’s End, it might be better to just to pop in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz and enjoy what was, instead of being disappointed by what never quite came together.