Thursday, March 20, 2014

The World's End

Directed by Edgar Wright.
2013. Rated R, 109 minutes. 
Michael Smiley 
David Bradley
Sophie Evans

In the twenty-plus years since college, Gary King (Pegg) has had a rough go of it. We meet him while he's in rehab, recounting the best night of his life. It was near the end of this senior year when he and his chums tried to complete the "Golden Mile." This includes drinking at least one pint of beer at each of the twelve pubs stretched over a few blocks in their hometown of Newton Haven. They didn't quite make it, but it was still an epic night. Realizing that even his very best night was one of unfulfilled potential he decides to give it another try. He recruits his old buddies, all of whom reluctantly agree despite the fact they've moved on from such antics. Except for repeatedly butting heads with Andy (Frost), his former sidekick, things start off reasonably well. This changes a few pubs in when the gang discovers there is something very strange about the people in their old stomping grounds. It seems much of the population has been replaced by robots. Our heroes trying to survive the night, figure out who is responsible and why, and still complete the "Golden Mile" ensues.

Early on, the movie is just a tad flat. Our hero attempting to convince his buddies to come along and then arguing over the past is okay, but nothing special. It's done to establish the characters, which is fine. It just isn't as funny as one might expect given the track record of the people involved. There are the usual sly references to other films, some overt ones, a healthy dose of sarcasm and smarter-than-you-think jokes. The main issue is we find ourselves waiting on something, anything to happen. Thankfully, just as we're getting restless, something does. The robots show up and the movie shifts into high gear.

With the switch in gears comes a genre change, too. We go from a straight comedy to one that inclues action and sci-fi. The fun factor increases exponentially and the things we did like from earlier in the movie remain. The jokes come a little quicker and the time between them is filled with a much more kinetic energy. Beneath it all, the relationship between Gary and Andy barrels toward a head. Something has to give. As much as dealing with the robots, getting us to brace ourselves for the inevitable moment of truth the two must share propels the movie.

Through all of the goings on, we get a surprisingly intense examination of Gary. He appears to be an acute sufferer of Peter Pan Syndrome. He doesn't wanna grow up. His reasoning is stated plainly early on, but over time we are made aware how deep his scars run. Honestly, much of it is his own doing. This makes him a pathetic figure, though not entirely sympathetic. He's just another big man on campus who drowned when he found himself in deeper waters. Instead of swimming, he chose to sink. We don't necessarily dislike Gary, but our heart belongs more to Andy. Andy is the one who thinks most clearly of the bunch, and stands up to Gary. Most importantly, he has his act together.

I understand depth is not the reason we watch comedies. It's nice that it's there, but we want to laugh. Watching this, we do. How much depends on a few factors. One is how you feel about a style of humor often, but not always, more subtle than much of what passes for comedy these days. For instance, a rather clever running gag involves the etymology of the word 'robot.' Another factor might be whether or not you've seen Shaun of the Dead. The World's End covers a lot of the same territory. At times, it feels like we just swapped out zombies for 'bots. So while it's a fun and funny movie, even a notch above most recent comedies, it doesn't quite achieve greatness.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10


  1. While I agree with much of what you wrote, I enjoyed this movie much more than you. I thought the beginning was awkward and dragged, but that it perfectly captured the initial vibe of 'getting the band back together' anyway.

    Oh, and the ending was brilliant, too.

    1. Hope I didn't come off too negatively because I did like it a lot. It's just a notch below Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, for me.

      And yeah, I did like that ending.