THE WORLD’S END
***1/2 (out of 5)
August 23, 2013
Simon Pegg as GARY
Nick Frost as ANDREW
Paddy Considine as STEVEN
Martin Freeman as OLIVER
Eddie Marsan as PETER
Rosamund Pike as SAM
Pierce Brosnan as GUY SHEPHERD
Studio: Focus Features
Directed by: Edgar Wright
BY KEVIN CARR
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While I haven’t followed Edgar Wright et al’s career since its earliest days (I haven’t seen any of “Spaced,” though I’ve been meaning to), I have enjoyed his movies for the most part. I thought “Shaun of the Dead” was vastly ahead of its time, and “Hot Fuzz” was a brilliant dissection of the buddy cop film franchise. Both of those movies are still a blast to watch today.
However, I have trouble getting into the whole “Cornetto Trilogy” aspect of these movies, since this spawned from a joke after during publicity for “Hot Fuzz” rather than being an overall perspective planned from the beginning. I appreciate the fact that Wright and Simon Pegg have written three films taking place in picturesque small towns in England that deal with bizarre genre elements. But to me, these films are better taken as self-contained movies with a modicum of connective tissue.
I suppose part of my reluctance to dive feet first into the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is that when “The World’s End” is put up against “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” it suffers. More over, the genre elements of the film weigh the movie down and seemed forced (as does the Cornetto reference itself in the film).
The story really has nothing to do with aliens or robots, even though they do show up about half-way in. Instead, the movie tackles some greater, more mature issues – like trying to reclaim your youth, regret, midlife crises and alcoholism. In a strange way, this is the most contemplative and mature movie that Edgar Wright has done. However, like an aging hipster trying to prove he’s still relevant, the more juvenile references get in the way of what the movie is really about.
“The World’s End” follows a group of men in their late 30s who try to recreate a pub crawl they attempted twenty years ago. The goal is to have a pint at each of twelve pubs in their home town, coming to a final stop at a pub known as The World’s End. Gary (Simon Pegg), the driving force behind this reluctant reunion, cannot escape his glory days of the early 1990s. Everyone else has moved on, and in a tenuous show of support, they join Gary on a new crawl. However, mid-way through, the gang finds otherworldly threats throughout the town, which sends them on a run to the World’s End.
Part of the charm of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” was that each film worked both as a genre picture and a deconstruction of its own genre. If you wanted a zombie film, “Shaun of the Dead” was fantastic. However, it was also very smart and aware of what it was doing, sending up zombies films in general to be one of the first big zom coms in modern cinema. Similarly, “Hot Fuzz” is a kick-ass buddy cop action flick while also being very aware of hitting all the cliches and beats.
“The World’s End” is neither a genre film nor a send-up of one. That’s not a criticism but rather an observation. Instead, it takes the problems that most people face in middle age and throws them out in the open to be examined in a frank but humorous way.
The problem is when the genre elements show up, the film takes a wild left turn and goes completely off the rails. The midlife remuneration continue through the rest of the story, but they take a back seat to a forced symbolic examination of what could have, would have and should have been.
Still, the sharp writing and brilliant cast makes “The World’s End” a thoroughly enjoyable film. I’ve never been one to crave movies about people wallowing in their pathetic nature, but Wright and Pegg deliver a script that allows for this and makes it wildly entertaining in the process. A great cast and sharp writing overcomes the movie’s flaws. Think of it as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with middle-aged men in English pubs with aliens, robots and a lot more drinking.
Standing on its own out of a forced ice cream marketing message, “The World’s End” is imperfect but still a worthwhile film.