Reliving the Past: The ‘Cornetto’ Franchise Review
In what could be the unlikeliest or most unconventional trilogy – and yes, arguably not a trilogy at all – director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have deemed this weekend’s The World’s End the third installment in the satirical Cornetto trilogy. The other two films by these three are 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz. Although the films aren’t connected in ways traditional franchises are, I still think it’s fun to watch these comedies as part of a series.
The only real connection between the movies involves a Cornetto ice cream (which I’ll get into more later). This leads to the various monikers, including the “Three Flavours Cornetto” and the “Blood and Ice Cream” (my personal favorite) trilogy. This cumulative review will serve as a precursor to Friday’s release of the trilogy-capper (check back Saturday for that review).
It’s also worth noting that Martin Freeman, Julia Deakin, Bill Nighy, and Rafe Spall will all make their third appearance in the trilogy.
I will try to tread lightly on these films, but there is a chance for spoilers, so beware!
Described by Edgar Wright as a “ZomRomCom,” Shaun of the Dead can be viewed as both (or either) an homage or parody. I prefer the latter, even though the zombie comedy does have plenty of nods to original zombie films (including the wordplay on Dawn of the Dead). No matter how you look at it, Shaun of the Dead is an aptly unpolished, and hilariously written, comedy. Even before I recently revisited the film, I remembered loving the movie from my initial viewing.
Shaun (Pegg), the main character, is a downtrodden salesman stuck in a rut, which extends from his career to his social life. With seemingly no drive in his life, he is off-putting to his roommate (Peter Serafinowicz), family (Penelope Wilton), and girlfriend (Kate Ashfield). His only real friend is Ed (Frost), a crude, overweight, quote, unquote loser that sticks around Shaun’s house.
That all changes when the world suddenly gets hit with a zombie outbreak unbeknownst to Shaun and Ed. When they finally realize what is going on, the movie becomes an improbable rescue mission.
Improbable and hilarious.
Written by Wright and Pegg, Shaun of the Dead owes the bulk of its effectiveness to the script. It’s both light-hearted and fun, while still being very sharp. The jokes are set up perfectly and employ a much deeper level than simple cuss words and sex jokes. While these do play a small role in the screenplay, the best lines and moments are much smarter.
Like I mentioned in the introduction, the film feels unpolished, or raw, and this can be attributed to the smaller scale and budget. Wright and company weren’t household names at the time, but that didn’t stop them. Good writing doesn’t have a price tag, which undoubtedly helps the film out.
Zombie comedies aren’t unheard of today. Recent movies like Zombieland and Warm Bodies owe royalties to Shaun of the Dead for introducing satire to the morbid genre. Equally as important is the introduction of Wright, Pegg, and Frost as filmmakers and storytellers.
It continued with 2007’s Hot Fuzz. Stepping away from the zombie genre and instead focusing on creating a buddy cop parody, the next film in the Cornetto trilogy is noticeably longer and more polished. However, it doesn’t relent on the satire front, creating an almost identically funny movie in a much different situation.
It’s worth noting that the film wasn’t planned to be part of any type of universe or franchise. It wasn’t until the film released that connections were made that were admittedly accidental. One of them involved the appearance of a Cornetto ice cream. In Shaun of the Dead, Ed is seen eating a strawberry-flavored ice cream, which we now see as a symbol for blood. In Hot Fuzz, the ice cream is the original flavor which has a blue label, meant to represent the police force.
For a quick rundown on plot, Hot Fuzz’s main character is almost the polar opposite from Shaun in Shaun of the Dead. Instead, Nicolas Angel (Pegg) is a tight-laced police officer forced to relocate to Sandford, a crime-free rural town. When he arrives, Nicolas buddies up with a similarly characterized mess-up, Danny Butterman (Frost), right as a series of mysterious deaths rock the town.
Again, Wright and Pegg are responsible for the screenplay that switches from horror to action. It’s just as bloody as its predecessor, though. It’s also just as funny, using biting sarcasm and ironic humor better than the bulk of parodies (then and now). Instead of blatantly making fun of movies like Point Blank and Bad Boys II, Hot Fuzz acts more as a thank-you letter than anything else.
A very funny thank-you letter.
In the end, Hot Fuzz succeeds at about the same level as Shaun of the Dead. If not being compared directly, Hot Fuzz is not only one of the best comedies of the last decade, but it’s one of the best action comedies of all time.
With The World’s End coming out this weekend, we can expect to see similar themes in love, friendship, and, of course, Cornetto ice cream.
You, like me, can see the movie starting tomorrow.
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