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Review: The World's End (Directed by Edgar Wright)

07.22.2013by: Eric Walkuski

PLOT: Five friends, reunited for the first time in 20 years, attempt to recreate the most memorable night of their lives: an epic pub crawl. But their mission is in danger of being thwarted by an invasion of body-snatching aliens!

REVIEW: Yes, THE WORLD’S END can stand proudly next to SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. That’s what you wanted to know, right? Certainly the question asked of me the most times when I’ve told my jealous friends that I had the opportunity to catch the new Edgar Wright film at San Diego Comic-Con - with Wright and Simon Pegg in attendance no less! It may not hit quite as many highs as SHAUN - which is, admittedly, a very tough mountain to climb - but it contains the same boundless energy, bizarre humor and good-natured wackiness to earn it a place in the “Cornetto Trilogy.”

What sets this one apart just a bit is the fact that it’s not taking the piss out of any specific genre. SHAUN obviously had fun with the zombie genre, and HOT FUZZ lampooned the buddy-cop thing, but THE WORLD’S END is more or less on its own. It does play a bit on alien invasion movies like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, but there aren't as many winks at the audience or as many direct references to movies past. Instead, THE WORLD'S END concerns itself with the fragile relationships between its flawed protagonists. Specifically, the extremely bruised and broken Gary King (Simon Pegg).

Gary may have been hot shit when he was in high school, but everything has gone downhill since the greatest night of his life - a 12-pub crawl undertaken with his four mates at the age of 18. Now he’s a poor loser, a drug addict living in squalor aching for something to cling to. (Yeah, it’s kind of dark.) Then the idea hits him: Why not attempt to recreate that most magical night; get the band back together and rewind time, drinking those worries away.

The only problem is, of course, that his mates have all grown up and become functional members of society. Gary hasn’t much trouble using lies and nostalgia to convince 3/4 of his old pals to accompany him on this journey, but he’ll need more than his reckless enthusiasm to get Andy (Nick Frost) to come along. The two, former best friends, have drifted apart thanks to an unspoken incident in their past and Andy’s current status as a teetotaler. But Gary won’t be dissuaded, so he’s ultimately able to get his gang together for another insane jog through their old town of Newton Haven.

The drinkfest kicks off according to plan, but eventually some unnerving signs of something amiss begin to emerge, like the fact that almost all of the people who lived there when the five friends used to are still around, acting suspiciously. But the strangeness doesn’t really become glaring until Gary and co. engage in a hilariously elaborate fight with a group of teenagers - who just happen to have blue blood and heads that easily rip off.

Frightened, the group quickly comes to the realization that their old town has been invaded by extraterrestrial androids who are systematically replacing every human they encounter, potentially threatening the earth’s entire populace. Careful not to arouse suspicion, the boys intend to finish their pub crawl and, if they can, save the world.

THE WORLD’S END has all the beloved hallmarks of a Wright/Pegg joint: rapid fire dialogue (filled with puns, double entendres, references, inside jokes etc.), crazed action, sight gags and perhaps most importantly, characters we care about and a genuine heart beating underneath all of the dizzying excess. In fact, this might be their most “human” story, presenting us with a lead character who is quite damaged. He’d be sad if he also weren’t so funny; Pegg dials it up to 11 here, making Gary King one of those hate-to-love-him party boys who is equal parts irritating and irresistible as he shoves a drink toward your face and calls you a wuss if you don’t drink it. He’s the most fleshed out character they’ve ever created, and it’s Pegg’s best, most entertaining performance yet.

 

The rest of the cast is perfect. Frost gets to play the straight man for a change; like Pegg, he gets to do a little more “acting” than he has before. The other three men in the group, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, are all very likable blokes, and Rosamund Pike provides much welcomed femininity as an old flame of Pegg’s (who also happens to be Freeman’s sister). As can be expected, there are a few enjoyable cameos from Wright’s usual suspects, and at least one BIG name who shows up. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.

Wright directs the hell out of this movie, too. There are at least three uber-impressive fight sequences, so fast and complicated that they could have come out of THE RAID or a Jackie Chan flick. If THE WORLD’S END serves as something of an audition for ANT-MAN - at least from a technical standpoint - consider that film in very capable hands. There’s real joy in the filmmaking when Wright is choreographing his sequences; it can be felt in every frame. He also, as is usual, has compiled a really knock-out soundtrack; my favorite moment in the film features The Doors' "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar"). And he shows real balls with his film's ending; the last few minutes are far from expected.

The long-short of it is, this is a film fan's movie, guaranteed to leave you with a silly smile on your face and a fondness for this most unique trilogy of films.

Extra Tidbit: THE WORLD'S END opens on August 23rd.

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