The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy are prime examples of great British wit, action, and passion for the craft of filmmaking.
The trilogy is an anthology, composed of films that don’t connect storywise, but instead were made and starred the same people. The Cornetto reference is to an Italian ice cream cone (much like a Drumstick) that makes a cameo in each of the films.
The people involved include director Edgar Wright, who also wrote all three films along with Simon Pegg. Pegg also starred in all three features, along with co-star Nick Frost. The final person to have the same job throughout all these films was producer Nira Park.
The films themselves are all comedies that take place in different genres.
The first film in this trilogy is Shaun of the Dead (2004).
Shaun (Pegg) is an electronics salesman and general layabout who is constantly sticking his neck out for his deadbeat best friend/flatmate Ed (Frost). After Shaun gets dumped by his girlfriend Liz (played by Kate Ashfield), Shaun and Ed go out for a night drinking.
When they wake up the next morning, they discover that there’s a zombie apocalypse going on.
This film was clearly made by people who care about and love the zombie genre. Instead of making a spoof, none of which have been good ever since Scary Movie came out (with a couple of exceptions).
The film’s comedy is very quick, and could easily fly over most people’s heads if they’re not paying attention. Despite that, Shaun can be seriously funny for those who are either very attentive or decide to watch the film multiple times, as many lines and events are alluded to or called back in comedic ways.
The film (wisely) isn’t all just comedy. In between the comedic moments are some actual heartfelt and dramatic scenes.
It also helps that the actors in this film have great chemistry.
Shaun and Ed have a very organic feeling of comedic chemistry. One can tell these actors are actually great friends in real life with how effortlessly they work off each other.
While Shaun and Liz have a believable romantic chemistry, it’s clever how after breaking up with him, she doesn’t just instantly hate him like in most films. She clearly still cares for him, it’s just that she wants him to straighten his life out and take their relationship more seriously.
Of course the film isn’t perfect; the humor is very British, which can be a turn off for some viewers. So if one isn’t a fan of that it might be wise to skip this film, maybe the whole trilogy.
And some of the side characters, most notably Dianne (played by Lucy Davis) can get kind of annoying and are sort of just there.
Shaun of the Dead, if one learns to go along with it, can be a bloody good time full of laughs and sometimes tears.
The next installment, Hot Fuzz, is a mystery film.
Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is a police officer who’s been transferred from London to a small town in the countryside due to him making everyone in his old precinct look bad by comparison. While there he teams with the police chief’s son, an ineffectual cop named Danny Butterman (Frost), who’s obsessed with action movies.
Together they try to solve a bizarre set of deadly accidents that Angel believes are actually murders.
This film’s comedy is a marked improvement over the first film (which was already pretty good). The comedy is even better in Hot Fuzz because of all the kooky characters and suspects.
For instance Simmon Skinner (Timothy Dalton) constantly says things and acts like a murderer throughout the film for no discernible reason, making Angel’s reactions to him priceless.
Or there’s Sergeant Tony Fisher (Kevin Eldon), who’s so slow and ineffective that he constantly asks Angel for help on what he’s supposed to do at crime scenes, even though Fisher outranks Angel.
Part of the film’s charm is that many mundane actions are shot like a gearing-up montage, even though little is actually happening.
When Angel is doing paperwork or when he is just making his way to the town by train, it’s all quick cuts because the director Edgar Wright knows that the audience knows what’s going on so he just skips to the good parts.
Another thing that is remarkably well done is how the police are depicted in the film. They weirdly show how actual police work is done, with comedic exceptions of course.
For example when forensics are on the scene they actually wear what forensics would wear to not contaminate the crime scene, or how after every arrest they have to do a boatload of paperwork.
Pegg and Frost also have even better chemistry in this film than in the first film. Here they feel much more like equals, unlike the prior film where Shaun was constantly standing up for Ed.
The film avoids the usual cop-buddy cliches. There is no big blow out where the two leads hate each other even though the audience knows that they’ll get back together. That is very refreshing.
The film is also a pretty good mystery thriller, with the culprit actually being not only clever, but hilarious.
The final film in this ice cream tasting trilogy is The World’s End (2013)
Gary King (Pegg) decides to invite his four friends from high school Andy (Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) to the Golden Mile, a pub crawl in their old hometown. The pub crawl entails a person drinking a pint of beer each at 12 bars in one night.
While on the pub crawl, things get out of hand and now the fate of the world is on the shoulders of these five drunken men.
I’m not going to spoil much about the plot because the film works much better if a person goes in with zero expectations. It’s much funnier when the film suddenly switches genres from a melodrama to an action movie.
Speaking of action, the stunt coordinator for this film, Bradley James Allen, also worked on the Kingsmen films, making this the best action in the trilogy by far. With long takes and fluid fight choreography galore, the action is a delightful surprise whenever on screen.
This time, Nick Frost has a more serious role than Simon Pegg. It allows Frost to show off his acting chops and he does not disappoint.
Pegg also does a great job as a self-centered jerk, who’s clearly living in the past and who refuses to move on. This comes off as annoying, but it’s clearly intended; the audience is not supposed to like Gary King, and at no point does the script try to redeem him.
Instead his character arc is just him admitting that he’s a terrible friend, which is clever and fresh.
The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy has three very distinct flavors of humor, heart, and action. All films are worth a watch.
From Best to least-great it goes Hot Fuzz, World’s End, and Shaun of the Dead.