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Movie Review: “The World’s End”

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  • Release Date: 8/23/2013
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Written By: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
  • Directed By: Edgar Wright
  • Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, David Bradley, Michael Smiley, Rafe Spall, Pierce Brosnan

Movie Review: “The World’s End”

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Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg (and buddy Nick Frost) have proven to be one of the best partnerships in film and TV history. The first two parts of the beloved Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, are practically perfect comedies, parodies of zombies and guns-n’-explosion-filled American action films (respectively) that rise above satire and have become pillars of the very genres they sought to make fun of. THE WORLD’S END, fittingly, is the final chapter in the most coincidental trilogy ever, taking on apocalyptic movies and the like.

Or so you think. After playing a slacker with potential in SHAUN, and an overachieving work nut in FUZZ, Simon Pegg fills the role you might expect to be played by Nick Frost in THE WORLD’S END: that of the self-obsessed, living-in-the-past drunk loser, who hasn’t moved on from the glory days of high school. Meet Gary King (and expect a ton of awful “King” jokes). It’s been 20 years since the best day of his life, when his pals undertook “the Golden Mile,” a 12 bars/12 pints pub crawl around Newton Haven, their sleepy hometown in the English ‘burbs. They didn’t make it, and now, 20 years later, for no other reason than to escape AA (a decent reason), King decides its high time to get the gang back together.

One by one, Gary seeks out Pete (Eddie Marsan), Steven (HOT FUZZ’s Paddy Considine), Oliver (SHERLOCK and THE HOBBIT’s Martin Freeman, getting a much bigger part than in the first two films), and Andy (Nick Frost, taking on a fantastic name), and somehow convinces them into a night of debauchery. They’ve all moved on and grown up, now with careers, wives, and children, but they can’t help but follow Gary King down the rabbit hole one last time.

The former best bro’s clearly have a ton of unresolved issues, especially between Gary and Andy involving an accident in their past. Where SHAUN had Simon and Nick as best buds from the start (and how maybe that was a bad thing), and FUZZ had Simon and Nick become best buds (and how that was a good thing), THE WORLD’S END has the two besties at each other’s throats, and worse, distant and not a part of each other’s lives. I appreciate the role reversal, as Andy plays a straight edged tee-totaling family man, but without their bro-love on full display, a lot of the humor in THE WORLD’S END seems lacking. In fact, THE WORLD’S END, in a true shocker, just isn’t that funny. Much of the first half is classic British comedy, going for awkward and uncomfortable laughs because Gary King is such an arrogant wanker (which I’m not always such a fan of). While one of the movie’s many themes is “the past” and “not growing up”, the humor just felt… dated. And not in a clever sort of way (“WTF” as a running joke, bluetooth devices, etc.).

Along with that, THE WORLD’S END is a far more serious movie than I expected. It’s tackling the pitfalls of aging and growing up, that of becoming a mindless drone of society, while also delving into alcoholism, the evils of modern technology, and how corporations are ruining local pubs. I appreciate how ambitious and big this movie is (the ending widens the scope exponentially), and potentially how personal this story is with Wright and Pegg, but it’s full of mixed, fuzzy messages. Many of which are just poured on during the climax. The ending is nuts, half in a good way, but it’s also a sticky mess. It makes no real sense, and is incongruous with the rest of the film. Whereas SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ had clear targets and a far simpler and more delineated message and goal, THE WORLD’S END doesn’t seem to know where it’s going (beyond the next pub). I was expecting a pub crawl amid the apocalypse, and while that happens… it just didn’t feel as blissful, energetic, and fresh as Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s previous collaborations.

And I think that’s part of the problem. I watched THE WORLD’S END as a part of a trilogy marathon screening, and after engorging in the gold standard of the first two films, THE WORLD’S END just couldn’t live up to that. Perhaps it’s one of those movies that demands repeat viewings, and gets better with each subsequent engagement, but immediately after HOT FUZZ, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the action (though there are some clever and awesome bits here), and most of the brilliant dialogue fell flat compared to the literate, foreshadowing quips in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

That said, it’s still a delight to find the many Easter eggs peppered throughout the film, and catch the actors that have made SPACED and the previous two movies so great, as well as laugh along with some of the many running gags that have survived the trilogy. THE WORLD’S END is still a good, fun movie, but it’s not a great or overly funny one. The last Cornetto turning out to be more of a melted mess than an unmitigated pleasure.


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