A pretty wild chef’s special of comedy, drama and an unusual (but very British) sci-fi element, The World’s End is quite probably going to be the ultimate pub crawl flick for some time to come. Of course, given the current state of the planet with stuff falling apart all around the globe, the film just might be THE ultimate pub crawl flick, period. Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will be happy campers thanks to some familiar elements and lots of in-jokes, but some of the second half and perhaps the ending of the film may leave new viewers cold because they’re not into the blending of humor and melodrama offered here.
Of course, just like that special menu item you have no control of once your order is placed, everything on that plate won’t taste as great as some would like. However, that’s only if you get picky mid-meal and start poking through that strange looking but tasty sauce to criticize the ingredients you don’t much care for underneath. This is a film that works best when you just sit down and take it all in, letting all the laughs hit you as they come forth and holding off any “serious” discussion until you’re comfortably nestled atop a bar stool somewhere afterward, freshly poured brew of choice in hand…
When Gary King (Simon Pegg), a not quite willing to recover over 40 addict who’s never really moved his life past his high school drinking days, decides to reconnect with his four closest friends to recreate and complete a legendary 12 pub crawl called The Golden Mile, things go from predictably amusing to wildly hilarious with a few darker twists as the film progresses. The movie kicks off with some simply brilliant use of music and snappy editing that blend with Pegg’s rapid-fire performance as he sets his plans into motion by reacquainting himself with his old buddies. While Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine) join up with more or less little convincing, the lone holdout, Andy (Nick Frost) finally joins up after a bit of interesting cajoling that will come back later on as a recurring gag/plot point.
As the quintet of middle-aged businessmen (and slacker Gary) set out on their journey through the small town of Newton Haven, the film gets in some excellent shots at how things have changed (not necessarily for the better in the case of the pubs) yet how others have remained as they were. A trip to the restroom by Gary and an encounter with a too-stoic teen leads to the film’s first tonal shift as we find out there are blue-blooded alien creatures who seem to be robotic (another running gag in the film is a debate on what to call the invaders) inhabiting the entire town. In another film, the plot would shift to how the five men would find the fastest way out of town, maybe stopping to rescue some distressed damsel or two on the way. In this film, Gary’s stubborn, drunken insistence on continuing the crawl at all costs gives the film a bizarre sense of priority and a stranger urgency as the men hit bar after bar in an attempt to find out the truth behind who or what these aliens are (and still drink up a few too many pints).
As with the other chapters of The Three Flavours Cornetto “Trilogy”, the ensemble casting here is excellent with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost perfectly cast as usual. Marsan’s sheepish Peter makes for an interesting character, but to me, both he and amusing Freeman’s Oliver felt a bit underutilized in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, Considine’s Steven makes a fine foil for Gary when the lovely Sam (Rosamund Pike) appears on the scene. She’s Oliver’s sister and had a quick fling with Gary she’d rather he not continually bring up, but of course, that’s what happens with the man who lives in his past and thinks it’s OK to try and take that into the present. As the film moves to a series of fights, chases and revelations, the pacing never lets up yet many cards are laid on the table, making for a sort of treatise on not aging gracefully and accepting one’s lot in life.
Wright’s direction here is solid and efficient, with the film working well as a balls-out comedy before morphing into a sort of crazy episode of Doctor Who meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Creation of the Humanoids (two cents if you remember that old flick). The visual effects are quite well done, but I won’t spoil things other than to say those aliens come apart at the seams pretty easily, but the film is in no way “gory” thanks to the bright blue goo splatting everywhere and the ability of downed “blanks” to reassemble themselves quickly. Pegg and the other main cast members get in some nice action bits, but Frost truly steals the show in his fight scenes, showing that a big guy can indeed bust some moves (and a few heads) when the going gets tough.
As an over 40 guy, I certainly loved the “one last gasp” thing going on here (although I’m not the big drinker type at all) and hope the cool kids pick up on it without too much head-scratching on their part. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m keeping this review pretty vague because there are some surprise casting moments and a finale that’s not at all expected with a coda that while not suggesting a “fourth” part of this unconnected trilogy, wouldn’t surprise me one bit if one day we saw a trailer roll out for another Cornetto flavour we’ve not yet discovered.
In addition to whatever box office success this garners thanks to its fans eagerly awaiting The World’s End, I have the funny feeling that when this one finally hits video, it’ll find its place in plenty of libraries as a “drinking game” flick of somewhat epic proportions. Which is a good thing, as it’s easier (and smarter) to get that blitzed at home and fall off the couch than to keel over out of one’s seat in a theater into the aisle with half a film to go…
Score: B+ (85%)