I admit it; I've been bingeing on Simon Pegg. You may remember my review of Hot Fuzz in last week's Press, a review that was prompted by the extreme parsimonious frugality of the Press's editor. And that's not a redundant use of words that mean the same thing. The frugality of the Madame L'Editeur, that is her meager use of resources, is renowned even amongst the miserly as the most extreme reluctance to part with even a groat especially when it comes to paying for services rendered. Hot Fuzz was the second part of a trilogy of sorts, three movies that don't share a story arc but rather a creative team. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and this past week's The World's End are written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, starring Pegg and directed by Wright. Having watched Hot Fuzz, nothing would do of course but to watch Shaun of the Dead, which I did, and then hie myself hither to the theater for The World's End. All three movies explore relationships, loyalty, and the malaise of spirit that sucks people into a somnambulant existence in which they are unable to see what's going on around them.
The World's End opens with Pegg's character, Gary King, in a group therapy session, recounting the "best day of his life," which happens to be a pub crawl that he and his school buddies attempted on the occasion of their graduation day, in which they attempted to drink a pint of beer in each of the twelve pubs in their hometown, the last of which is The World's End Tavern. They never completed their quest, but Gary remembers it as a glorious adventure on the first day of the rest of his life. Unfortunately, while his four companions go on to have jobs, families and real lives, Gary is a down and out alcoholic with only one dream -- get the guys together, recapture the glory of his youth, and finish the quest to reach The World's End. While Gary manages to get his old friends to agree to his scheme, the old chemistry of the friendships isn't there, and the only one seemingly having a good time is Gary.
However, all is not right with the hometown's folk. In a men's room confrontation with one of the local youths, Gary gets into a fight and in the process tears the head off of young protagonist who, as it turns out, is not human at all but a robot. Worse yet, it appears that most everyone in town is a robot. Gary and his friends have to figure out what's happened, and the more they uncover, the stranger and the more riotously funny it gets. And the ending, well, you just have to be there to appreciate its genius.
The trilogy has gotten both sillier and more refined as it has gone along. Make no mistake, these are comedies, and the humor would fit squarely into a Monty Python category of silliness, but there is biting satire about shallowness of modern culture and surprisingly sensitive treatment of the theme of what friendship is and how much it costs. The comic style that was quite fresh in Shaun has been fine-tuned and reaches new heights here. And the cast, many of whom have done all three movies, seem very comfortable. Simon Pegg is really quite brilliant in the lead, and the chemistry between Pegg and Nick Frost, whose characters had the pivotal relationship in all three movies, was particularly satisfying. Joining the regulars in this movie was Rosamund Pike, as Sam, Oliver's younger sister. You know, I'm not sure how well Pike can act, but she is so good looking that she's a pleasure to watch.
I laughed a lot at this movie, as much as I laughed at Despicable Me 2 earlier this year, and I hadn't laughed that much at a movie for a long time. Be careful, though. This is a much more adult movie. The language is pretty rough (but funny), and the themes are definitely not something you want younger children listening to.
Outrageous, surreal, and very definitely funny, you get a lot of entertainment for your money with this film. If you are at all a fan of British comedy, The World's End is worth a trip to the movie theater.
A drunk, a real estate agent, an engineer, a car salesman, and a lawyer walk into a bar ...
... and find that the town they once tried to take by storm, drinking their way through the Golden Mile of twelve pubs, has been taken over by a disturbing and murderous force.
After watching Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, I was really hyped and ready to love The World's End. And honestly, I did enjoy it, and laughed heartily at much of it.
What was most enjoyable was seeing this ensemble of actors take on different roles, yet still maintain a sense of camaraderie that carried over from the previous two movies. I love them all.
Still, I was constantly less than amused by Simon Pegg's character, Gary King, a lapsed alcoholic recently escaped from rehab and the hospital. Having had two of my friends nearly destroy their lives due to alcohol and drug addiction, I found myself seeing their behavior in Gary King's insouciance to danger and common sense, and his lack of concern over what his actions might do to the people he loved the most. That wasn't funny in real life; it wasn't very funny in the movie.
The rest of the quintet, plus Rosamund Pike's character, Samantha, were very, very funny. All of the characters grew up, got serious about life -- maybe too serious. Bit by bit they break down and begin to laugh at themselves, start to remember what life felt like back when they were twenty years younger: more immediate, and far less frightening. It's this youthful verve they have to recover in order to save the world.
By all means, see this film. It's wonderful, and will keep you thinking about your life for days and days after.