All 12 of the bars are set pretty low for 'World's End'
05:00 AM, Aug 22, 2013
It’s the end of the world as they know it, and five longtime friends don’t feel fine.
It seems their drinking marathon has kicked off an apocalypse in The World’s End (* * ½ out of four; rated R; opens Friday in select cities).
This final installment of a British comic trilogy that started with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz reunites Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. While intermittently funny, it may be the weakest of the three.
As co-written by Pegg and Wright, World’s End offers some comic insight into the pitfalls of arrested development and the perils of living in the past. But the movie shifts midstream from a jaunty buddy comedy to an erratic alien-invasion movie and never regains its footing.
Pegg plays Gary, once the wildest member of a quintet of teenage friends. While his mates have established careers and started families, annoyingly irresponsible Gary remains resolutely stuck in his high school glory days. His buddies Andy (Frost), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine) are understandably reluctant to join him on an epic pub crawl in their quiet northern England hometown. The guys had attempted this “Golden Mile” drinking fest during the past two decades but never made it to all 12 designated bars.
Ever the manipulative charmer, Gary convinces his buddies that they should revisit their quest. He approaches each one usually at inconvenient times and tells them that the others have signed on. Consequently, they all show up to fulfill Gary’s fever dream of a drunken bacchanal in the quaint village of Newton Haven, culminating at a pub called The World’s End. The plan is to drink a pint at each of the dozen bars.
It’s never clear why this idea seems so important to Gary now, 20 years later. His entire existence is informed by exasperating efforts to reclaim a sense of his feckless, reckless youth.
His pals’ attempts to make Gary face his childish self-absorption go unheeded. As they’re about to head back to their homes in London, the guys are stopped in their tracks. Over a half-hour into the movie, they learn that their hometown has been taken over by Stepford-like alien robots. Bodies have been snatched and invaded, and the guys struggle to distinguish the still-human local residents from the pod people. These events lead teetotaling Andy to fall off the wagon.
There’s a romantic triangle involving Gary, Steven and Oliver’s sister, Sam (Rosamund Pike), that seems to exist solely for a female character to share a few moments with the guys. Pike has some funny moments before disappearing about halfway through the movie.
Gary doesn’t exactly grow up, though his impulsive actions at least are not cowardly when it comes to barroom brawls and nasty clashes with the resident aliens.
A recurring gag about nearly indistinguishable, similarly furnished pubs is a funny commentary on chains and franchises.
The premise of visiting so many pubs as a narrative device, however, bogs down the initially energetic pacing and goofiness. Piling on the mayhem renders The World’s End a sometimes chaotic and uneven comedy.