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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

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 WrightSimon 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 Mainwarings 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.


One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: The World’s End”

  1. manliano says:

    I really feel like I’m missing the party on this one, because I disdained this film. As a huge fan of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and more specifically, ‘Hot Fuzz’, I was beyond disappointed.

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Julian Schnabel: Years ago, I was down there with my cousin’s wife Corky. She was wild — she wore makeup on her legs, and she had a streak in her hair like Yvonne De Carlo in “The Munsters.” She liked to paint. I had overalls on with just a T-shirt and looked like whatever. We were trying to buy a bunch of supplies with my cousin Jesse’s credit card. They looked at the credit card, and then they looked at us and thought maybe we stole the card, so they called Jesse up. He was a doctor who became the head of trauma at St. Vincent’s. They said, “There’s somebody here with this credit card and we want to know if it belongs to you.”

He said, “Well, does the woman have dyed blonde hair and fake eyelashes and look like she stepped out of the backstage of some kind of silent movie, and is she with some guy who has wild hair and is kind of dressed like a bum?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Yeah, that’s my cousin and my wife. It’s okay, they can charge it on my card.”
~ Julian Schnabel Remembers NYC’s Now-Shuttered Pearl Paint

MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—

GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé