“This movie looks a lot like that This Is The End movie you reviewed, Bailey.” Yeah, it does a bit. But not by much. About the only thing that these two movies have in common is that they both share a plot surrounding a band of friends uniting to get through an apocalyptic scenario. The difference? Everything else. So quit your bitching.
The World’s End is the third film from director/writer Edgar Wright that pairs British actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Previously, they worked on Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), both of which I loved. They’re hilarious, gory, and generally just a good ride. Not to mention, I like to consider this group of men to be the modern-day Monty Python. Some of you might disagree, but their British shenanigans and love for “weird, witty comedy” is very Monty Python. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this movie’s trailer.
But was this movie as funny as it promised to be in the trailer?
Here’s how Focus Features describes the plot: “In The World’s End, 20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year-old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their hometown and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub—The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.”
To read the overall review and see the letter grade, scroll past the spoilers to the “End of Spoilers.”
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Much like Hot Tub Time Machine, The World’s End follows a group of friends reliving their glory days. Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and Stephen (Paddy Considine) all have families and respectable careers. Their former leader, Gary King (Simon Pegg), however, is stuck in the past and determined to return to their hometown of Newton Haven to finish the epic “Golden Mile” pub crawl (made up of 12 pubs) that they were unable to finish in 1990. The film is a hilarious yet very self-aware look into what’s basically Gary’s mid-life crisis. In fact, it’s hard not view Gary as that one former school friend we all have. You know, the one who never seems to grow up and get their life together? That’s mostly because the writers (Wright and Pegg) nailed this character well. Gary wears the same clothes he wore as a teen, drives a car he purchased in 1989, listens to a tape cassette mix made by Stephen, owes all of his friends money, and suffers from depression and addiction (which is hinted at in a therapy session scene, as well as with the hospital bracelet and bandages around Gary’s wrists).
While that might seem somewhat dark and brutally honest (and it is), this movie masks this underlying sadness with so many good laughs (We’re talking belly-shaking laughs). My theater was losing it. Some examples of the funny moments? Everyone keeps saying Gary has a selective memory, and Gary keeps bringing it up and forgetting who said it, who it was about, or why he brought it up only to then switch the topic to whatever awesome memory he recalls. And then there’s the “Let’s Boo Boo” line (said whenever they need to leave) that is used occasionally, but not enough that you grow weary of it. What does “Let’s Boo Boo” mean? Honestly, I can’t remember. It was something about how, in their school days, the boys used to say “Let’s Make Like Yogi Bear” or something of that nature, and eventually it devolved to just “Let’s Boo Boo.” Nevertheless, hilarious. My favorite part had to be the scene right after the guys realize the town is made up of robots, and we get a montage of them downing beers and walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the streets in sync looking absolutely terrified.
Now, if you pay close attention to Wright and Pegg’s writing style, you might notice that they like to give away their movies’ plots in either the dialogue or the names of places in the movie (Best example: Shaun of the Dead). Yes, all of those crazy pub names actually give us the plot. Let me show you…
- The First Post = The first leg of the epic pub crawl.
- The Old Familiar = The pub where the group notices everything is different about the town.
- The Famous Cock = A run-in with Oliver’s sister Sam, who once had sex with Gary.
- The Cross Hands = The group fights a band of teens in the bathroom, who they realize are actually robots.
- The Good Companions = The group decides to stick together and continue on the pub crawl to stay alive.
- The Trusty Servant = Gary confronts his former drug dealer, who is human but works for the robots.
- The Two-Headed Dog = Gary and Sam get in a fight with Sam’s friends, the twins (who are robots).
- The Mermaid = Three girls from the group’s past try to seduce Gary, Andy, and Peter.
- The Beehive = A bunch of robots swarm the group in a fight.
- The King’s Head = On their way there, Gary smashes his head on a wall to prove he’s not a robot.
- The Hole in the Wall = Stephen drives a car through the pub’s wall to help Gary and Andy.
- The World’s End = Obviously, the apocalypse.
Amazing, right? And Edgar Wright even admits to using the bars as “tarot cards” for this film.
Honestly, the only point where I felt the movie really fell flat was after Gary and Andy made it to The World’s End pub and were confronted by the beam of light that was supposed to be the supreme robotic-alien overlord (or whatever the hell it was). Gary and Andy argue for humanity’s freedom, basically telling the robot overlord “We’re dumb, and we should be left to our own demise because that’s the human condition.” That few minutes of banter felt like hours because they kept saying the same thing over and over just with different wording. And then poof! Supreme Robotic-Alien Overlord was gone, taking all of the world’s technological power. So we were treated to an ending of “This is what so-and-so is doing now that we’re living in a decrepit, dystopic England with no power.” And it was so boring compared to the rest of the film’s pacing and sharp delivery.
Do you know how it SHOULD have ended? Bear with me while I explain. Since the whole movie was about how Gary obsessed over never finishing the Golden Mile in his childhood, the robots should have only existed as a result of Gary and his friends not finishing the pub crawl the first time. In a sense, it’s like Jumanji. You can’t get rid of the problem (in this case, robots) until you finish “the game.” See what I mean? Then, rather than having this half-assed commentary on humanity and its own destruction, it would be a message about hanging on to friendship. Essentially, the ending would follow a mythological formula (which most of the movie already does). The group of heroes fights through several trials (robots) in order to finish the journey (pub crawl), ridding the town of evil (robots) and rekindling their friendship along the way. Plus, how funny would it have been to see everything just go back to normal like nothing happened, meanwhile the main characters are like “YO, TOWNSPEOPLE! HOW DO YOU NOT REMEMBER THE ROBOTS?!” Anyone feeling me on this?
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Overall, The World’s End is a very funny film about friendship, mid-life crises, drinking, and apocalyptic robots. If you can get over the fact that it’s weird, it’s very easy to enjoy. There are throwbacks to ’90s culture, plenty of one-liners that will undoubtedly make this movie another cult-classic, and badass fight sequences with awesome CGI. Not to mention, the comedy deliveries of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan work well together. The only downfall to this movie is that the ending seems like it was thrown together carelessly just so that the movie would, you know, end. But up until that point, prepare for non-stop laughter.
The World’s End: B+