Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: The World's End

Image courtesy of Focus Features.
"The World's End" caps off director Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy, which began with the - in my opinion - overrated "Shaun of the Dead," moved on to the significantly better and funnier "Hot Fuzz" and ends with this third film.

The films are a trilogy not because there are any recurring characters, but at least two of his cast members - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost - have been in all three movies. And all three pictures blend comedy of a very British sort with violent action and, often enough, horror and science fiction elements.

This final film in the series is my second favorite of the bunch - better than "Shaun" but not quite as good as "Fuzz."

The picture is split in to two very different halves, the first of which works wonderfully and the second, while certainly amusing, with slightly less success before culminating in a strange ineffective ending.

Pegg plays Gary King, that type of guy whose charm and carefree spirit in high school has translated into a somewhat pathetic adult existence. He still drives the same car, listens to the same mix tapes - populated with Soup Dragons and Suede songs - and has the same outlook on life as he did in 1990. He's also an alcoholic.

The film opens with a funny, but also sorta sad, sequence in which he describes the greatest night of his life with his mates during which they attempted the Golden Mile, a pub crawl that was supposed to end with the titular dive, but was never completed. We then realize that his retelling of the story is taking place at an AA meeting.

Gary decides to give the pub crawl a second go and rounds up his reluctant friends - most of whom he hasn't seen in years - who are played by Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman. While Gary has never really grown up, his pals are holding down jobs and relationships.

It's during this first half that Wright's film works best. There's a certain poignancy to Gary's belief that the gang will be welcomed back with open arms to their hometown of Newton Haven. And then there's the reality that most of us face when going home again after so many years - life in your hometown has gone on without you and most people don't remember you.

Then, the second half kicks in and so does the film's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" type scenario. The town has been taken over by - well, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that Gary and friends must fight their way out of a peculiar situation and that the themes from the film's first half still remain in play. And the otherworldly plot line that comes to the forefront has a certain satiric element to it that mostly works as a parody of consumer culture and the Starbuck-ing of our modern age, as one character puts its.

So, it's unfortunate that the film's finale is sort of a dud. I'm not referring to the scene in which Gary and crew speak to the leader of the extraterrestrial presence against which they are fighting. That scene is sort of funny. I'm talking about the post apocalyptic sequences that follow.

All in all, though, "The World's End" is a good time. It's often very funny with witty repartee displayed by all and often coming at you like a barrage of machine gun fire. And as a character study of a guy who just can't get his act together, it mostly works. It's certainly better than all of the other end of the world movies as of late.

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