Movie Review: The World's End

When lead actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team up with director Edgar Wright, you know you’re in for something special. Both of their previous collaborations, “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Hot Fuzz” (2007), proved to be both hilarious satires and surprisingly strong contributions to the respective genres they paid tribute to, specifically, horror and action. “The World’s End” (2013) continues that tradition of delivering the signature quick-witted British-style humor that Pegg, Frost, and Wright so expertly execute, while also creating a strong sci-fi film along the way.

In 1990, teenager Gary King and his friends attempted “The Ultimate Bar Crawl”: twelve pubs, with one pint of beer per bar, ending with the final pub, “The World’s End.”  Drama, overdoses, and other forms of debauchery ensued, before the group finally gives up. In the present day, King (Simon Pegg) recruits his old high school buddies (Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine), to attempt the bar crawl one last time to relive the glory days back in their small home town. As their epic night goes from one bar to another, almost all of the town’s occupants reveal themselves to be robotic replacements of the people King and his crew grew up with. As the citizens become more and more hostile, the five friends become more and more drunk. Ultimately, King must race to “The World’s End” pub to fulfill his childhood, escape, and hopefully find help.

The acting is solid across the board.  Simon Pegg plays an absolutely lovable jerk in the lead role, making Gary King someone you want to both hang with and beat up at the same time. His line execution is dead on every time and his level of confidence in the role is palpable.  As always, Pegg and Frost have great chemistry together, as do the other cast members.  Martin Freeman (“The Hobbit,” “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) is as charming and fun to watch as ever, while every other actor is given his or her own special moments to shine.  It’s clear Wright knows this cast well (many of whom having appeared in his previous films) and he takes full advantage of the opportunity.

There is relatively little humor to be found in set up pratfalls and the typical gross-out sight gags common to R-rated comedies, rather, it’s lightning-fast dialogue between the characters that gives “The World’s End” such life. If it hasn’t been clear Wright’s other movies, it’s fairly obvious now that the actors and directors fit together like gloves, the writing and improvisation flowing naturally along. There’s very little setup for much of the jokes, all of which come rapid-fire and oftentimes multi-layered. It’s an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish, but Wright and Pegg manage make this the most clever comedy in years.

With the humor also comes plenty of well-developed characterization and some fairly dark material. This is the story of growing up and moving on. It’s about characters coming to terms with their demons and learning to move on, with some failing to do so. Even beneath all the laughs, there’s a distinct ominous tone throughout the movie, which is most definitely paid off at the end (more on the ending later).  Just like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” it’s certainly an intense experience with death at every turn, despite its lighthearted outer shell.

Despite such a strong script and cast, “The World’s End” does have its share of shortcomings, most of which are found in the film’s budget  Like their previous efforts, the budget for World’s End was minimal, and it certainly shows in the heavy special effects scenes. Very few CGI shots look good, especially when interacting with live actors. Many actors find themselves “holding” disembodied heads, arms, or other appendages, but none of them look like they’re actually being held. One particularly bad effect sees a human-like robot with half its head shattered, making the head look almost like an empty glass ball, but it looks so amateurish (beyond even comedic), that it becomes a glaring distraction from the rest of the movie. To be fair, the budget was very constrictive, so obviously Wright had to allow some bad effects to get by in order to make the movie he wanted, but I do wish he had simply avoided some of the effects altogether.

 

Fair warning, I’m going to SPOIL THE ENDING right here.

 

In the final 10-or-so minutes of the film, we find that the title “The World’s End” refers to more than just a pub. The aliens destroy the pub, the town, and ultimately the entire world. The movie suddenly jumps from being a dark-but-lighthearted affair into a full-blown post-apocalyptic horror piece, a completely jarring transition.  The characters do not get a chance to wrap up their personal stories and are never given a chance to own up to their past actions or move on beyond childhood. It’s as though Wright could not think of a good ending for the surviving characters to end on, so he just says, “You know what?  Screw this, let’s just blow the world up!”  Throughout the movie, Pegg’s character has been seen as a borderline-pathetic individual who’s never managed to grow up past high school (complete with dyed black hair and a black dust jacket that’s never really cool past 11th grade) and right when he seems to have finally learned his lesson, the entire world is destroyed. The last we see of him is in the same dust jacket preparing for yet another bar crawl. He hasn’t learned his lesson after all  It’s a cool ending, but it simply interrupts the flow of character progression that was so expertly crafted in the last two hours of movie.

 

SPOILERS END HERE.

 

Overall, despite some small shortcomings in the writing and special effects, “The World’s End” proves to be another hilarious and powerful entry in the Pegg/Frost/Wright series.  It’s probably their best since “Shaun of the Dead” and my favorite comedy of the last few years, ranking among the best 2013 has had to offer so far, I give Edgar Wright’s “The World’s End” 4 Stars out of 5.

 

 

 

About Brady Gorman

Comments

  1. It’s Shaun not Saun

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