Gary (played by Simon Pegg) wants to relive the glories of the 1990s so badly that he reunites his old high school chums and band members, coercing them into recreating a legendary pub crawl from their youth. Problem is, Gary is in rehab, a delusional burnout and his former buddies don’t really like him. In particular, Andy (played by Nick Frost) wants nothing to do with him and only joins the old crew out of pity. Over the course of an odd, somewhat strained reunion, Gary and his group hit one bar after another, with sobriety and niceties fading away. Then something really bizarre happens in the men’s room and the whole evening changes…
This is the third film collaboration between Pegg, Frost and Edgar Wright, following their wonderful Shaun of the Dead and the uneven but pretty funny Hot Fuzz. Unfortunately, while their latest has some good laughs, especially early on, it’s the least of their three comedies. The movie is like a barfly who boasts that he can hold his drink, until he gets wicked pissed and stumbles out of a bar.
Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World demonstrated a distinct, sometimes brilliant approach to its storytelling, particularly in the way it was edited. The World’s End plays like an over-extended episode of Spaced, the clever, pop-culture crazed TV show that heralded the debut of Pegg, Frost and Wright.
They’ve never been afraid to embrace the absurd or adapt sci-fi and horror genres in the midst of telling stories about loyalty amongst middle class friends. The World’s End has the bollocks to go fearlessly over the top. It doesn’t have the good sense to realize that, the further it tumbles down the rabbit hole, the more it loses the heart, humor and soul of its promising first hour.
Without giving anything away, the threat that enters the story offers keen visual references to British sci-fi horror films Village of the Damned, Children of the Stones and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The narrative gear switching doesn’t elevate the film. It smothers a comedy that didn’t need the fantasy angle. Audience goodwill can go a long way to buffering what a disappointment this is, though it’s clear the creators peaked with Shaun of the Dead and should have quit while they were ahead. Instead of more laughs, this offers a lot of fight scenes, which isn’t really what you’re hoping for in a Pegg/Frost comedy.
Like the unfortunate Paul, which Wright didn’t direct but Pegg and Frost wrote, their latest has a heavy-handed, out of left field attack on God and organized religion. The scene in question, which I won’t reveal, is like a flatter take on the infamous “Why does God need a starship?” scene from Star Trek V. I like constructive debate about religion in films but here, it comes across as heavy-handed, on-the-nose obvious and flat. Pegg and Frost are due a pub crawl of their own with Richard Dawkins any day now. Fine, but they need to make a movie where they directly go after religion and stop inserting their commentaries into movies that don’t need them.
Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman are among those in the supporting cast who offer wry, fine tuned comic support. The opening, which mirrors a famous montage from The Rules of Attraction, is an enjoyable flashback sequence that perfectly sets the tone. It’s a shame that Wright and his movie lose their footing so disastrously in the second and final acts.
The World’s End
Rated R / 96 Min.