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The World's End Movie Review

The World's End (2013) movie poster The World's End

US Theatrical Release: August 23, 2013 / Running Time: 109 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Edgar Wright / Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright

Cast: Simon Pegg (Gary King), Nick Frost (Andy Knightley), Paddy Considine (Steven Prince), Martin Freeman (Oliver Chamberlain), Eddie Marsan (Peter Page), Rosamund Pike (Sam Chamberlain), Pierce Brosnan (Guy Shephard), David Bradley (Basil), Michael Smiley (Reverend Green), Darren Boyd (Shane Hawkins), Bill Nighy (voice of The Network), Alice Lowe (Young Lady), Rafe Spall (Young Man), Jenny Bede (Fitness Instructor - 26), Thomas Law (Young Gary King), Julia Deakin (B & B Landlady), Mark Heap (Publican 7)

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Maybe the partnership of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost cannot be called the greatest modern filmmaking team, but it certainly seems to be the most fun and easiest to recommend.
This British trio got its start on television with the two-season millennial sitcom "Spaced." From there, they graduated to the big screen with the enjoyable 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, which they followed with the near-perfect 2007 police action/comedy Hot Fuzz. It's taken a while, but the group has reunited to conclude their so-called Cornetto trilogy of comedies infused with genre thrills.

If you're not familiar with the aforementioned works, which star Pegg and Frost and are directed by Wright, who also writes with one or both of his leading men, then The World's End might surprise you with the turn it takes nearly an hour in. For the first forty-five minutes or so, the film is about a reunion of five men who were hell-raising best friends as teenagers. Their finest hour, as ringleader Gary King (Pegg) remembers it, was an epic pub crawl they attempted in June of 1990.

Old friends (Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman reunite for an epic pub crawl recreation in "The World's End."

The Golden Mile involves drinking a pint from twelve nearby establishments in one night. As just-graduated 18-year-olds, the guys couldn't do it. Gary came closest and still fell three pubs short, while his cronies gave in to sickness or better judgment before then. They've all moved away from their hometown of Newton Haven, drifted apart, and moved on from that night. Actually, that last task has eluded Gary, who clings to his trusty black trenchcoat and still drives his old car, nicknamed "The Beast."

It's Gary's idea to reunite and recreate the infamous pub crawl on a Friday night in October, only this time he intends to see it through. With some difficulty, "The King" is able to coax eternally-Bluetoothed realtor Oliver (Martin Freeman), construction worker Steven (Paddy Considine), and car salesman Peter (Eddie Marsan) into setting aside the responsibilities of middle age for one night of rekindled friendship. It takes a little more persuasion, a repaid debt, and a lie to get his estranged best bud Andy (Frost) to sign on, the wounds of an old grudge involving a serious accident not yet healed.

The night begins at The First Post, where the guys establish an order of four beers and one water; Andy's sixteen years of sobriety open him up to derision from Gary, whose inability to mature past adolescence is painfully obvious to these family men.

A few pubs in, the guys realize that something is off about Newton Haven. A bathroom encounter with a teenager whose head pops off and spurts blue ink tips them off. The town has turned into robots. Well, not "robots", per se. And not the whole town, just the vast majority of it. How to react to this startling discovery? Gary reasons it's best for them to keep up appearances and continue the Golden Mile as planned. That's easier said than done, though, as the residents grow aware and weary of their visitors' differences.

The guys down one of the twelve pints that comprise The Golden Mile. Gary King (Simon Pegg) recognizes something strange is gripping his revisited hometown of Newton Haven.

Zombies and cops are both storied cinematic institutions, making each a veritable gold mine for parody, homage, observance, and reinvention. The World's End doesn't lean as heavily on one subgenre, which enables it to be more original and unpredictable but also less hilarious.
The film is not terribly interested in paying tribute to the likes of I, Robot and The Stepford Wives, the two movies that most spring to mind as ancestors. Truthfully, neither of those deserves a place on World's End's surprisingly thin IMDb Connections page.

Whether Wright, Pegg, and Frost are out to prove that their works are more than derivation or they simply didn't have another huge target to celebrate and skewer, this film is strikingly different from the other two. Still, it shares a sensibility and a basic premise: ordinary British blokes encounter chaos, doom, and conspiracy that binds them together and gives meaning to their seemingly trivial life issues. It's comedy with some heart and humanity in addition to "proper action" and frequent crude profanity.

Its narrative a little messy and its energy flagging at times, The World's End is not the masterpiece that Hot Fuzz is. But it's more consistently entertaining than Shaun of the Dead and it's a whole lot better than Paul, the 2011 alien comedy Pegg and Frost made with American co-stars and crew. The World's End is such a good time purely as a film about men of forty reconnecting and reflecting on their youth that you don't want that movie to end and become simply a springboard for more graphic action. Gladly, though, it doesn't lose its way. This trio knows and loves sci-fi about as much as horror and police action, but they're not willing to rest on credentials or affectionate references. Instead, they make a legitimate contribution to the genre without ever losing sight that this is a comedy about refreshingly fleshed-out characters.

Accordingly, the film entertains from start to finish, even though that finish is the most bizarre and surreal place these guys have taken us yet. Actors like Marsan and Considine, often resigned to unremarkable character roles, flourish in this group dynamic, getting nearly as many good moments as Pegg and Frost, who have fun swapping their usual straight man and wild card duties. Though relatively light on cameos, the film still seizes opportunities for familiar faces like David Bradley (of Hot Fuzz and the Harry Potter series) to amuse. There are even some worthwhile things for Rosamund Pike and Pierce Brosnan to do.

While I'm certain that this movie won't wind up as my favorite movie of this year as Hot Fuzz was of 2007, I'd be perfectly delighted for this trio to make a film of this caliber on a regular basis. Let's hope we don't have to wait another six years for another taste of their extraordinary wit.

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Related Reviews:
Written and Directed by Edgar Wright: Hot Fuzz Scott Pilgrim vs. the World | Now in Theaters: Elysium Planes
Simon Pegg: Run Fatboy Run Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol The Adventures of Tintin
Nick Frost: Kinky Boots | Martin Freeman: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Eddie Marsan: Happy-Go-Lucky Sherlock Holmes Jack the Giant Slayer | Paddy Considine: The Cry of the Owl Submarine
Rosamund Pike: Jack Reacher Made in Dagenham An Education The Big Year Surrogates
2013 Comedies: The Hangover Part III Identity Thief The Sapphires The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Pain & Gain

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Reviewed August 23, 2013.

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