The appropriately-named The World's End is the funniest comedy of the year.
If you've seen Actor Simon Pegg before his Star Trek: Into Darkness days, you'll remember him as the guy who created Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both hilarious takes on their respective genres. Since then, we've seen zombie and conspiracy flicks get a lot more serious leading to a 2013 Summer seemingly inundated with them. Luckily, Pegg's new project The World's End doesn't take itself too seriously, merging two seemingly unconnected things - drinking and alien invasion - into one of the funniest and most rewarding comedies we've seen in awhile.
THE WORLD'S END Junket Interviews With Cast-
Gary King (Pegg) is a washed-up drunken loser who can't seem to move on from his free teenage days. Institutionalized for a brief period and sporting the same 'trenchcoat fashion' from his youth, his best days are clearly behind him. His high school chums Andy (Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead), Oliver (Martin Freeman, The Hobbit), Steve (Paddy Considine, Bourne Ultimatum) and Peter (Eddie Marsan, Snow White Huntsman) have all gone on to bigger and better things, leaving Gary pining for the old days. That 'better time' happened in 1990, when his posse attempted the famous 'Golden Mile,' a 12-pub parade of beer that was cut short in drunken spectacular fashion. Gary brings the band back together for one more attempt, without realizing that his friends have zero interest in participating. It's only after the announcement of his mother's death (a ruse) that the boys find themselves back in their hometown of Newtown Haven. There, they discover that the people have been replaced with robots (the definition of which becomes a running gag), who intend on overtaking the world. This all comes as a shock to Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike, Jack Reacher), who Steve has been secretly crushing on for years. As Gary tries to finish the pub crawl, the town descends on our heroes, leading them to an extraordinary meeting with the leader of the robots (voiced by Bill Nighy), whose ultimatum forces a deadly showdown and a surprising conclusion.
Director and co-Writer Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) collaborates flawlessly with Editor Paul Machliss in several very funny sequences as the boys drink and fight their way from pub to pub. There's a lot of British humor here (the apparent homogenization of England's pubs), but it's explained just enough to make them funny without inspiring debate from the audience. Wright also puts on a visual feast (lots of quick edits and unique camera angles of beer dispensing) while Machliss cuts just enough fat from the script to keep things moving. Pegg collaborated with Wright on the script, which feels a lot like Shaun of the Dead but is also filled with a surprisingly human angle, as King unloads about his failed life and needing to create one good thing (the pub crawl) from what's left. The difference between something like this and similar elements used in Hangover III is in its execution, both in the script and in the actors Pegg and Wright have recruited. Frost, Freeman, and Pike bring the dramatic chops while Pegg and Marsan do slapstick better than any Wolf Pack. The result feels balanced and absolutely hilarious.
As with films of this kind, one has to take the plot with a grain of salt - the idea of a coming apocalypse is nothing new in 2013 (This is the End), nor is the ridiculous assumption of alien invasion (Dark Skies, Oblivion). But it's the fun of a pub crawl - and the troubles our characters find themselves - that adds a new wrinkle to things. This preposterous mix is celebrated throughout World's End like a party gotten way out of hand and then rationalized by those who just wanted to get together for a drink. As the film ends in a way you might not expect, an exclamation point is emphatically placed on a story that could have turned very bad early on - thank Wright and Pegg again by knowing how to bring great comedy without sacrificing character development or boring us with too many details. We get almost as much build up of our characters as we do the apocalyptic events which unfold afterwards. That process could have been tedious, but instead we're treated to funny look-backs, slow-mo's, and other comedic elements that keep us laughing. There are only a few missteps here: former-Bond Pierce Brosnan, an actor who recently has done too many small projects for people to take notice, isn't on screen long enough as a robot middleman for us to like or hate. And the suddenly cat-like reflexes of the boys is uncharacteristic of people in their 40's. It would have been much more rewarding (and funny) to have seen them react the way real older people do to violence than suddenly granting them Matrix-like powers. Again, it's all forgiven as the slapstick is high and the dialogue just deep enough to reward us for stick around to the end.
The World's End is not going to be a surprise blockbuster; it might not even make a blip on the Top 20 or win any awards come Oscar time. But, it is a fun experience for those who are up to the challenge, with great performances, slick editing, and an ending that will surprise. With the amount of serious dystopian films and television programs on the rise, this one is just fun for a laugh. Take the time to check it out - I promise you'll leave laughing. The World's End is rated R for language and sexual references (huh? No nudity??) and has a runtime of 109 minutes.
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