Almost too much fun. The third in the Cornetto Trilogy reunites Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz’s Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright (along with a few other familiar faces and voices) to give the world their take on the sci-fi invasion story. It’s a super fun story, too. In an attempt to recreate the 12-pub-long Golden Mile bar crawl of their youth, Pegg and Frost are joined by three other great comedic actors, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan. Everybody but Pegg has grown up and become adults, and it takes some doing to get the gang back together. When they do set off on the epic quest it is non-stop fun.
In fact, non-stop might be the best description for the movie. Unlike Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, this movie starts off quick and continues to accelerate until the glorious conclusion. It’s a marvel of editing, writing, directing, and Pegg’s manic performing that combine, Voltron style, into a supercharged machine of a movie. Edgar Wright’s movies always feel so finely crafted and still manage to maintain a solid emotional core. Again the focus is on the relationship between Pegg and Frost, though the roles are reversed with Pegg going all out and Frost playing the straight man. It’s a fun new dynamic that really works and becomes even better as the film moves along and they get angry at each other. Pegg gets to show off just how great he is at using all the muscles in his face to form any number of wacky expressions. That may sound like a chore, and his fast talking style could grate, too, if he weren’t so darn good at it. He’s a master of the over-the-top-yet-decidedly-real performance. Frost, too, gets to stretch his acting muscles as he demonstrates that he can play a “normal” guy just as easily as he can a deadbeat or an enthusiastic but not so smart cop. The other three members of the group are also perfectly cast, each bringing way more to the table than another, lesser actor might have. They don’t get as much to do as the two leads but they all perform admirably and steal scenes on a near constant basis. Even better, there’s always an undercurrent of love between Frost and Pegg (and the other three) that really keeps everything together in the face of the crazy action.
And boy is the action crazy. Wright seems to have learned a lot from his time on Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World as all of the fight scenes here have an impressive kinetic quality that makes each smash feel visceral while keeping the lively sense of fun from the rest of the movie. The choreography is tight and Wright’s direction is top-notch. He’s always been able to tell a joke with a cut or a camera movement, which is nice to see in this age of improvised, overstuffed comedy. And he wrangles the many tricky plot threads into one cohesive, propulsive, supremely entertaining film about the perils of holding on to the past and the necessity of friendship. There are, again, multiple references to movies of the genre including a clever twist on a classic 70’s sci-fi premise and iconic scene. And look out for an homage to a cinematic titan that, like Hot Fuzz, nods to a fond farewell that happens to be near a car. These references are sidled up next to some fun shoutouts to the trio’s previous works. They never overpower the film, though, thanks again to Wright’s prowess behind the camera and (with Pegg) the typewriter. This film is proof positive that Edgar Wright is one of the best directors of our time, and certainly one of the most fun.