If you’re a geek, then odds are actor/writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and writer/director Edgar Wright are superstars in your world. Pegg’s face is known to geeks and mundanes alike as the comic relief Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movies and the similarly amusing techie, Benji Dunn, in the “Mission: Impossible” films, but to many of us, that’s merely a footnote.
The now legendary Wright/Frost/Pegg collaboration began with the very funny 1999 U.K. sitcom, “Spaced.” It went worldwide with 2004’s horrifically delightful ur-zombie comedy, “Shaun of the Dead,” and the even more gleefully bloody buddy cop homage, “Hot Fuzz,” in 2007. Co-written by Pegg and Wright, the films’ sharp and hyper-imaginative direction and well-crafted, sincere screenplays gave us all hope that the ancient art of dramatic comedy was undead, at least.
While the trio remained best pals, their professional lives inevitably diverted. Frost and Pegg collaborated on the 2011 science-fiction comedy, “Paul,” with director Greg Mottola, while Wright took on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
Now, it’s time for the inevitable reunion. The third film in what is being called The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, a sly nod to the late auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski and a popular brand of ice cream cone, “The World’s End” might lack zombies and buckets of blood, but it’s easily the darkest of the three films. It’s also pretty clearly influenced by such wry post coming-of-age comedies as “Diner,” “The Big Chill” and, believe it not, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s great 1955 noir musical, “It’s Always Fair Weather.” (The latter two films played together at a recent film series curated by Edgar Wright at L.A.’s New Beverly Theater.)
“The World’s End” bring us a leather-jacketed Simon Pegg as Gary King, a bad boy well past his sell-by date who goads four old chums into recreating a 12 pint hometown pub crawl. As the film rolls on, the depth of Gary’s estrangement from his pals, especially his embittered, teetotaling ex-best friend Andrew Knightley (Frost), becomes increasingly clear. The fact that the boys’ old digs are the apparent seat of the imminent destruction of humanity via an alien invasion of mechanical humanoids actually lightens the mood.
“The World’s End” features UK acting stalwarts Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan as the rest of the gang, and Rosamund Pike as the girl who got away, all grown up. Critics, like our own Jason Zingale, are upbeat about the film’s quality, but the more downbeat tone of the tale it tells is inescapable.
We caught up with an intense and very tired Pegg, a laidback but slightly shagged-out Frost, and an ever enthusiastic but clearly exhausted Wright, whose next film will be the long discussed “Ant Man,” at, where else, Comic-Con.