When I first saw Shaun of the Dead, I thought it was brilliantly funny. The team behind the movie (writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright) poked fun at the zombie movie genre while reverently making a fantastic zombie movie. With Hot Fuzz, they repeated their magic with the buddy cop genre, again respectfully poking fun at the genre. Could they strike gold a third time with an homage to the body snatcher genre?
While I won’t say that The World’s End is a bad movie, because it isn’t, I will say that it doesn’t measure up to Shaun of the Dead nor Hot Fuzz. For a movie of this sort, which is to say a respectful parody, to work requires a keen awareness of the genre’s cliches and tropes and then to both poke fun at them while simultaneously utilizing them with reverence. Hot Fuzz does this very while while Shaun of the Dead excels at it. The failing of The World’s End, however, comes largely in the fact that the movie fails to play with the genre’s cliches. While there are many humorous moments in the movie that will keep you entertained, few of them rely on the genre foundation. Rather than being a respectful parody of the genre it feels more like simply a funny body snatcher movie.
Now, that’s not to say the movie isn’t good – it is good and quite enjoyably funny in many parts – but, on its own, that isn’t sufficient to make it a great movie and, more importantly, doesn’t place it in the same category of its two predecessors.
One of the biggest reasons this is a problem is, rather than being a study of a genre, it becomes just a movie. Once it’s just a movie, you no longer focus on how successfully it played with the genre and instead focus on, well, the movie. Once you do that you start obsessing about stupid character choices intended to solely push the plot forward; you focus on gaping plot holes; you focus on character actions/reactions that are out of touch with what is happening to them. As a genre study, these are elements you can forgive because of their sense of self-awareness – you know that the movie makers are doing it intentionally because its part of the genre and they’re actually playing with those elements. Once the movie gets away from that, however, they just become plot holes or poor character development.
It’s unfortunate that The World’s End fails as a genre parody because I feel the team behind the movie were so brilliantly spot on with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I was eagerly looking forward to more works from them because of how expertly they broke down a given genre, picked out the funny bits to build a humorous movie, and then rebuilt it all with such profound respect for the genre. I wanted to see more works of this ilk and was hoping The World’s End would nicely follow suit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Its just a funny body snatcher movie with major plot holes and some weak character development. It is fun and entertaining but it isn’t Shaun of the Dead nor is it Hot Fuzz.