The Good: Good plot development, Moments of humor, Moments of actual character development, Effects
The Bad: Opening voiceover is pretty tired, It stops being funny and turns into a very different type movie for most of it.
The Basics: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright take a dumb drinking movie and make it into a surprisingly engaging science fiction invasion film The World’s End.
In recent years, American audiences have been bombarded with films focused on the young and drunk. Since The Hangover (reviewed here!) became a surprise summer hit a few years back, filmmakers have tried to recreate it for a younger and (frankly) dumber audience with movies like Project X (reviewed here!) and 21 And Over (reviewed here!). Comedians Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright decided to go in the opposite direction with The World’s End. The World’s End focuses on five men reaching middle age that act young and dumb when they have quite a bit of alcohol in them.
Fortunately, The World’s End turns into something very different. What begins as an awkward, British comedy with slow deadpans and dull voiceovers evolves nicely into an Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-type science fiction adventure. In The World’s End, though, the protagonist is not particularly smart and certainly not invested in saving the world at large. So, The World’s End has an actual character journey as Gary King evolves from a guy trapped twenty years in his past to a man at the crosshairs of a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the human way of life.
In 1990, five friends, led by Gary King, tried to go bar hopping across twelve pubs in the crappy little village they lived in, Newton Haven (England). When they didn’t make it to the final bar, The World’s End, it left King unfulfilled. Now, King is struggling to get his friends – who are more successful and adult than he is – back together to try to hit all twelve pubs in one night again. His best friend from childhood, Andy, is the most reticent to rejoin the “quest” (whatwith not having had a drink for sixteen years), but pressured by King, the five begin a night of debauchery, though Andy’s is tempered by water as he is in recovery.
The twelve pubs start slow, with surprisingly few people present. Even as they drink, Gary, Peter, Oliver, Steven, and Andy begin to realize that things are not quite right in Newton Haven. People look at the quintet funny and when Gary gets into a fight with a teenager in the bathroom, he discovers the boy is not human at all. Instead, he has blue blood and is a robot. When Gary and his friends confront one of the robots, they find that the others do not like that term, so Gary and his friends start calling them “blanks.” The group is soon joined by Sam, Oliver’s sister, and in trying to protect her and his friends, Gary tries to make the journey through all twelve pubs to The World’s End, while uncovering and doing his best to stop the blank invasion.
When The World’s End stops being about a thirtysomething obsessed with recreating a meaningless event from his past, it really begins to get going and become something special. At that point, the movie transitions from being an awkward comedy entirely dependent upon clunky exposition and entirely contrived character positioning. Especially given all they went through in the past, that Oliver and Andy agree to come to Newton Haven is entirely unrealistic. For sure, Gary lies to Andy, but the lie is a pretty transparent one and that Andy, who seems to be a professional, could have easily checked on.
The character revelations in The World’s End come almost too late for the viewer to care, but Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright seed the important character clues early and the pay-off is worth it. Sprinkled in among the revelation of the robot invader conspiracy are deeper character motivations that are compelling and interesting. Gary is lost and an addict who illustrates well just how people trapped in addictive behaviors can get trapped. He, Sam and Andy have strong motivations that make them seem like real people – if not entirely sympathetic, though the point of Sam seems largely to be to bring someone obviously sympathetic into the film – in what soon becomes an extraordinary circumstance.
The result is something smarter and more polished than The Watch (reviewed here!) and it does not force the humor after a point. Ultimately, The World’s End is an action-conspiracy film that develops into itself and it becomes a worthwhile movie instead of the stiff comedy it begins as. Simon Pegg is seldom goofy as Gary in The World’s End, though Nick Frost dominates the scenes they share as a man who spends most of the film clinging to his sobriety for good reason. Frost makes Andy realistic and interesting and he helps keep the film grounded when it goes into potentially absurd territory.
Ultimately, The World’s End is entertaining, but hardly timeless, making it a good film for the end of Summer Blockbuster Season and one of the few reasons to go out to theaters in September.
For other works with Simon Pegg, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek Into Darkness
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
How To Lose Friends And Alienate People
Run, Fatboy, Run
Mission: Impossible III
For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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