Don’t let the title fool you. You probably think this is another one of those apocalyptic movies about the end of the world, with huge explosions and rampaging monsters.
Actually, it’s about drinking. It opens in 1990, on the last day of senior year in high school, when five pals in a British suburb got together at a pub to have a celebratory pint of beer. Then they moved on to another pub, then another. The plan was to do “The Golden Mile,” to down a pint in each of the little town’s 12 pubs. It’s about Gary and Andy and Steven and Oliver and Peter drunkenly wending their way to pub number 12, aptly named The World’s End. But things didn’t go as planned. They only made it part way, never reaching their goal. Then they separated, went in different directions … you know, grew up.
Now, 23 years later, Gary (Simon Pegg), the self-proclaimed leader – or at least the loudest and most talkative – of the group, has decided to get everyone back together, to visit their old hometown and give “The Golden Mile” another try.
Problem: While four of them actually have grown up, and gone on to have families and successful or semi-successful careers, Gary has remained, let’s say, a teenager at heart. He’s still loud and still talks too much and definitely drinks too much. His former pals have kind of forgotten about him, except for Andy (Nick Frost), who pretty much hates him.
But via Gary’s gift for gab, the deal goes down, and soon the boys are back in town, ready to tackle that “unfinished business,” starting, as they did all those years ago at The First Post, and hopefully ending, stinking drunk, of course, at The World’s End.
It’s a great idea for a buddy comedy, and this fast-moving film is breezy and very funny, and contains just the right amount of pathos.
Then, at pub three or four (I can’t remember which because the studio thoughtfully provided beers to critics just before the screening), one of them heads for the bathroom, where something extremely odd happens, and … well, this becomes one of those apocalyptic movies about the end of the world, without, thank goodness, huge explosions or rampaging monsters. Things eventually keep jumping from being outright hilarious to extremely creepy, and back again, much of it going on under a boozy haze.
This is the third collaboration between writer-director Edgar Wright, actor-writer Simon Pegg, and actor Nick Frost, the trio that gave us “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Aside from being the cleverest and most ambitious of the three films, it’s also got the best cast. The quintet of former pals is rounded off by three of Britain’s best current character actors: Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan (you will know all of their faces), and there’s a great bonus addition of doe-eyed Rosamund Pike as a sort of love interest.
Acting honors go to Pegg this time, as his Gary is brimming with youthful bravado, even though we clearly get a sense of desperation, maybe even tragedy, behind his eyes. But it’s the writing and direction that are the real costars of the film. Genre fans will pick up on the homages to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” and other science-fiction greats. But Wright and Pegg, as they did in their two previous scripts, also instill this one with a warmth and sweetness, as well as a sense of loss (this time of youth), and a general feeling that something is really, really wrong!
The visual effects are very cool, the barroom brawls are expertly choreographed, and, as a bonus for true coffee lovers everywhere, Starbucks gets a big-time bashing.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
THE WORLD’S END
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg; directed by Edgar Wright
With Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan