"THE WORLD'S END" (2013) (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) (R)
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Sci-fi Comedy: Five former classmates now pushing 40 attempt a legendary pub crawl in their hometown, only to find the residents have been replaced by an alien intelligence.
Gary King (SIMON PEGG) is an alcoholic who is pushing 40, has never had much career success, and has never married. He likes to live in the past. And one of his past failures was not completing an epic, 12-bar pub crawl in his small British hometown of Newton Haven with four classmates soon after their high-school graduation. The problem is, they have all moved on to successful careers. Some have become husbands and fathers. Most have tried to forget him.
They include Andy Knightley (NICK FROST), Gary's former best friend who was nearly killed years earlier while trying to save Gary from overdosing on drugs; Oliver Chamberlain (MARTIN FREEMAN), a successful Realtor in London whose sister, Sam (ROSAMUND PIKE), Gary once had sex with in a public restroom; Steven Prince (PADDY CONSIDINE), a recent divorcee now dating a 26-year-old, but who still has feelings for Sam; and Peter Page (EDDIE MARSAN), a husband and father of two who once sold Gary the car he still drives today.
Gary browbeats, pressures, and outright lies to the four guys to get them to go on the pub crawl. Upon their return to Newton Haven, they learn that almost all of its residents have been replaced by nearly identical androids by an alien intelligence intent on assimilating the people of Earth into their intergalactic collective. Gary convinces Andy and the gang to continue the pub crawl so as not to call attention to the fact that they are still human. But word eventually gets out, and the five become marked men.
OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
A lot of movie reviewers and movie fans are comparing "The World's End" to "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." And rightfully so. All three movies are directed and co-written by Edgar Wright and star British funnymen Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. But, for my money, the movie their latest effort most reminds me of is "From Dusk 'Til Dawn," the 1996 Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino mash-up that started off as one movie and then took a severe left turn halfway through and became a COMPLETELY different kind of movie altogether.
Something similar happens in "The World's End." Pegg and Frost play old high school buddies who reunite with three other old chums to complete a 12-bar pub crawl in their little hometown that they couldn't complete when they were younger. They have all gone their separate ways since graduation and have had varying degrees of personal and professional success. Well, except for Pegg's Gary King, a man so stuck in the past he drives the same car and listens to the same mix cassette tape. But he was the life of the party then and now, and he is the one who brings them all back together again. For Gary, completing the pub crawl is more than just a flight of fancy. He considers it the temporal junction point from which all things in his life went wrong. But he doesn't share that with the guys (who also include Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan). Instead, he lies, deceives, and outright bullies them into joining him on his quest.
Pegg gives a fantastic, no-holds-barred performance here, arguably the best of his career. Gary is alternately hilarious, pathetic, arrogant, and small. He's pushing 40, but still tries to walk and talk with the swagger and bravado he had at 17. Lately, he's been up and down and trying to get the feeling again, and we sense there is something far darker lurking beneath the surface of his mania. He's such a big personality that he comes close to dominating the film. But Frost, Considine, Freeman, and Marsan are such seasoned performers that they have no problem developing supporting characters that end up really resonating over the course of a nearly two-hour narrative. You come to really enjoy spending time with these blokes.
And then the film turns. There is a sci-fi element to the second and third acts of this film that you're either going to go with or you're not. I went with it, even though I would have loved to see these characters continue in a more "normal" comedy-drama and see where their personalities would have taken the film. Regardless, co-screenwriters Wright and Pegg never lose sight of their characters when their film's more fantastical elements kick in. If anything, the malarkey about aliens and androids and apocalyptic threats only serve to bring these five guys closer together and expose even more of their flaws, their petty beefs, and their wonderfully endearing idiosyncrasies.
And, for the most part, they NEVER stop drinking. They keep the pub crawl going against all logic, and you don't want to see their quest end until they literally do get to The World's End, the 12th pub on their crawl. Along the way, there are great lines of dialogue, memorable moments both big and small, and even some actual ideas for the audience to think about.
It's been a truly dreary summer at the movie theaters. So, the tendency is to over-praise when you get a movie like "The World's Ends" that is funny and clever and doesn't lose its sense of self amid the stunts, action set pieces, and special effects. It ends up being a nice companion film to "This Is the End" from earlier in the season, but I think this is a much more ambitious effort overall. As such, I give it a very enthusiastic 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin)