The World’s End (Edgar Wright, 2013)
Five guys walk into a pub, meet malevolent robots, and in the ensuing battle reconnect with their lost youth. Sound crazy? Such is the basic plot summary of this final installment of British director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy. If you liked the first two entries – Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – in this makeshift series, then there’s a very good chance that you’ll enjoy at least part of this new film, as well. Unlike the previous movies, however, The World’s End loses control of its final act, taking what had been a fun ride and crashing it into a ditch. One drink too many, I guess . . .
It all starts off very promisingly. Simon Pegg plays the King – Gary King, that is – a middle-aged man stuck in 1990, the year in which he experienced the best night of his life on an epic pub crawl in his hometown. Though he and his mates didn’t quite make it to the final pub (out of 12), along the way much drunken merriment was had. Now, 23 years later, Gary King has yet to ever top that moment – which makes him a very sad, yet funny, main character – and is on a quest to bring the old gang back together to finish the crawl. The only obstacle is that his friends – Cornetto mainstay Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine – have all moved on with their lives, with jobs and families (for the most part). Why would they ever want to go back home with such a loser? Well, he’s a charming loser, in no small part because Simon Pegg imbues him with a sad-sack grace that transcends his obvious failings. And so the friends find themselves back in Newton Haven, in spite of their many reservations, for another go at the Golden Mile (as the pub crawl is known).
For a while, then, this is what the movie is about: friends reconnecting and reminiscing. As such, it is a mildly enjoyable story, with chuckles and the occasional guffaw, that takes its time and becomes somewhat of a meditation on adulthood and conformity. Until the robots show up. These stand-ins for the dangers of absolute subservience to a conformist ideology suddenly turn the movie into a delightful parody of end-of-world flicks, much as was This Is the End at the start of the summer (with the same lack of women, though Rosamund Pike – better here than in Jack Reacher – shows up to add some needed estrogen to the mix). Watching our heroes get drunker and drunker as they try to stave off the end of the world is delightful, and very funny, and my guffaws turned into full belly laughs.
But all good things must come to an end, particularly when there’s alcohol involved, and the fun ends, abruptly, in the same way that so many other summer films do, with too many explosions. Although writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg try to make sense of the apocalypse with some voiceover rhetoric about organic farming and its benefits, what happens in the third act is simply not supported by what has come before. Perhaps it was the hangover kicking in as they finished the script. Or that one extra drink.
[One final fun note – as in Hot Fuzz, we have the treat of a cameo by a former James Bond. In the earlier film, it was Timothy Dalton, and now it is Pierce Brosnan. Here are Edgar Wright’s thoughts on the subject. Enjoy!]