Monday, September 2, 2013

Movie Review: "The World's End"

It's been said you can never go home again. Whether or not that's true, trying to relive your past isn't always advisable, because it's rare that you can capture the magic of your glory days.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) has learned that lesson the hard way. When he and his four best friends were seniors in high school in 1990, they were at the top of their game—Gary more so than anyone else. Cocky, confident, popular with the ladies, the quintet had some spectacular memories. One night around their high school graduation, they planned to accomplish a worthy goal—conquering the epic pub crawl in their town, with one pint of beer at all 12 pubs, ending at The World's End. While they weren't successful in this feat, for Gary, that night was the highlight of his life—one that he hasn't been able to replicate more than 20 years later.

Determined to relive those memories, Gary reunites his friends—his estranged wingman, Andy (Nick Frost, Pegg's compatriot from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz); his rival, Steven (The Bourne Ultimatum's Paddy Considine); perpetually henpecked Peter (Ray Donovan's Eddie Marsan); and type-A real estate agent Oliver, aka "O-Man" (Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman). No one, particularly Andy, seems interested in drinking themselves into oblivion for one last hurrah, but Gary's charm convinces them to make the return trip to their hometown.

The pub crawl clearly emphasizes that Gary has never grown up or moved past high school, and it reopens some old wounds from those days. Yet a jealous rivalry between Gary and Steven for Oliver's sister, Sam (Jack Reacher's Rosamund Pike) appears to be the least of their problems, when the group discovers their hometown has been taken over by robots (although not quite robots). Suddenly the very fate of the world lies in the hands of these old friends, who must put aside their own issues to help protect life as we know it.

As you might imagine from the description, this is about where the movie goes from wry and funny to outlandishly silly and a little off the rails. It's certainly what you'd expect from the team behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but truth be told, I would have been satisfied if the film had stuck to the story of the friends attempting the epic pub crawl without the ink-spouting replicants. It's almost as if Pegg and his co-writer, Edgar Wright, just wanted to cram everything they could into this movie, which left it a little weighted down rather than the stupidly funny movie I was expecting.

When the film allows Pegg and company to relive days of yore, pick up old fights and start new ones, it really shines, because the actors play really well against each other. Pegg and Frost are a terrific film pair, and Considine in particular has a wry, smirking bravado that works for his character. Everyone seems to be having a good time (you almost expect them to burst into laughter a few times), and that adds to the amusement factor.

In the end, this is definitely an amusing movie for a matinee or a rental (when available), as long as you keep its limitations in mind.

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