By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com
Wilmington on Movies: The World’s End
THE WORLD’S END (Three and a Half Stars)
U. S.: Edgar Wright, 2013
I’ve let The World’s End go unremarked—so far—even though this cheerfully outrageous new comedy by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (all of Shaun of the Dead) is one of my favorite movies so far this year—and judging by the reviews, the favorite of lots of other critics (and audiences) too.
The movie deserves its accolades. It’s a hilarious, robustly imaginative and very smart blend of buddy-buddy dramedy, shrewd roughhouse British comedy and social satire and cinema homage (this time to Don Siegel and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring‘s paranoid s.f. classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Of that kind and mixture of picture, I’d say it’s been done almost perfectly. Certainly, this high-octane show has among the funnier ideas, zestier performances and better, more corrosive dialogue of any movie, British, American or whatever, that’s been out recently. If you’ve missed it and are any kind of a fan of Ealing Studios, Goon Show, Beyond the Fringe or Monty Python-style humor, well, all I can say is “Shame on you.”
Like Shaun of the Dead (zombies) and that other Wright-Pegg-Frost parody Hot Fuzz (cop-crime), The World‘s End mixes biting British social comedy with American genre movie parody—and it hits the spot on both levels. The plot is reminiscent of the drunk buddies comedy The Hangover (the first one), and the Rogen and Company pop apocalypse farce This is the End. But it’s better than either, and funnier.
The acting is spot f—ing on. Pegg shines as the dissipated but still energetic and full of himself ex-teenage campus lord and Hootmeister Gary King—who once was the ruler of high school revels and is now an aging, dissolute semi-wreck. He gathers together his four ex-high school buddy-followers Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Peter Page (the splendid Eddie Marsan) and his now estranged once-best chummerino Andy Knightley (Frost, natch), all acting aces, to repeat and this time complete their epic school’s-end pub-crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven—a tour of pubs and pint-swills, finishing at the appropriately named World’s End.
Gary, in the decades since he ruled the roost, and pleasured the ladies and bossed his wild bunch, has become a demonic, dissolute motormouth, still living in the past and its old rotten glories. His four one-time acolytes, however, have eased into comfortable white-collar lives, and his ex-right hand chap Andy has become a teetotaler, alienated completely from his old pal. The tamed quartet is uncomfortable; Gary is in his boozy element, keeps dragging them onward.
Along their alcoholic way, they meet an old teacher (Pierce Brosnan), old nemeses and Sam (the splendiferous Rosamund Pike), an old flame of both Gary and Steven. As the booze flows, we begin to notice something funny about these pubs—Starbuckized pubs you might call them. But Gary is such a loudmouth and his chums are so magnificently uneasy that we don’t read between the lines… yet.
At first The World’s End seems like a rowdier, more roistering version of a Mike Leigh-style social drama-comedy or a more socially minded variant on a Yank bromantic hellraiser comedy. Then it takes a wild curve into Body Snatcher genre movie-land. But, crazy as it all gets, the emotional richness of the first scenes keeps feeding into the later, more fantastic plot twists. Some people may prefer the first parts, some the later stuff. I liked it all.
Director-writer Wright and his two stars, Pegg and Frost, and their friends, Considine, Freeman and Marsan keep the show popping and sizzling all the way. The central trio have become one of the more reliable purveyor teams of really good, really smart movie comedy around—British to a T, with a refreshing blast of American comic inebriation, and funny beyond words. Now, let’s all ‘ave a pint, and get scussed and soused on the way to the Apocalypse.