There was no question I’d be going to see The World’s End. The only real question was when. Opening weekend seemed like the ideal time to check out the latest from Simon Pegg (Writer and lead actor) and Edgar Wright (Writer & Director); I mean they did write Sean of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this was as safe a bet as any, right?
Cristoph and I headed out to the theater on opening night, drunk with memories of the previous two Pegg and Wright collaborations. We were also excited for a low-key night of laughs and movie magic. We were ready; it had been one really long week and we wanted to get lost in someone else’s story for a while.
We got to the movie theater, parked, went inside and then stood in front of the popcorn display, debating between purchasing the small vs. the medium. We finally decided on the small, once we both realized (and accepted) that every time we buy the medium, there’s always a bunch of popcorn left over and being the wasteful jerks that we are, we usually just throw that shit out. After grabbing a bottle of water, we made our way to the cashier and paid.
Upon walking into the theater, we found that our favorite seats were open. We like to sit in that first row, you know, where there’s a bar upon which you can prop up your feet. My husband is tall so he likes to stretch out. I’m short and like putting my feet up on things, because fuck the man. Happy to have claimed our favorite spot, we munched popcorn and waited patiently for the movie to begin.
When we first meet Gary King (Simon Pegg) he is in the process of convincing his high-school friends Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Andy (Nick Frost) to attempt a legendary pub-crawl one more time. You see, in their youth and just after graduating high school, these five friends attempted the Golden Mile, but failed to make it to all twelve bars on the crawl. Twelve pubs, twelve pints—that was the challenge they were unable to complete twenty years ago.
Gary’s stuck in the past and hung up on completing that crawl. He is also that guy, the one that clearly lived out his glory days in high school and refuses to look forward, opting instead to gaze into the past. Gary’s life seems to have stood still while his friends developed into what appear to be normal adults. Gary ultimately manages to convince his four reluctant friends into traveling back to their hometown to reminisce and bond as they finally finish the legendary Golden Mile.
The World’s End is the story of Gary, Andy, Oliver, Peter and Steven’s final attempt at reaching The World’s End Pub (last stop on the crawl) before their time on this world comes to a literal end. Indeed, this is another satirically apocalyptic story from two very talented writers.
Simon Pegg brings us a very sad and stuck Gary King. Gary believes the best time of his life began and ended that night, when he and his friends first attempted the Golden Mile all those years ago. Unfortunately, Gary never moved past his youth and thus remains a child, hiding inside a grown man’s body. He never evolved, never straightened up and he’s still a reckless hand full. Simon Pegg usually nails his roles and while he delivered an overwhelmingly capricious and callous lead character, I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. Pegg was intensely annoying which was funny at first, but then it became aggravating. While I suspect this was intended, it was laid on a bit too thick for my liking. Had he brought his entire performance down a couple of notches, it would have been infinitely more effective in both the dramatic and comedic aspects. What I saw was a performance that felt as if it were phoned in and then amplified to hide the fact that it wasn’t heartfelt.
Nick Frost is Andy Knightly, Gary’s former best buddy who gave up drinking and seems to have grown up into a kind, respectable, good guy. Frost was also the standout in the film. He brings us an earnest friend in Andy. He’s kind, even tempered and a complete departure from his previous roles. Frost is honest, endearing, caring and responsible. He’s the best friend we all wish we had, the guy that will bail you out of jail, the one that will take you to get trashed the day your divorce is finalized and the dude that will make sure you made it home in one piece. Frost blends a precise mixture of charm, comedic timing and badassery.
The rest of the cast is engaging and effective. My issue with this movie isn’t the acting. I was disappointed that the dramatic subject matter, hidden within the jokes and circumstances, didn’t blend well with the slapstick comedy. This formula was successful in Sean of the Dead, but didn’t come across with the same deadpan grace in this film.
During the first half an hour of the movie, I noticed that I was enjoying a sad story about a boy who refused to grow up and how the world that sprang up around his stunted mentality, one day crumbled and pinned him underneath its pathetic weight. Then, all of a sudden I was watching a buddy movie, which later abruptly morphed into a sci-fi action flick. Normally, these different genres blend nicely in a Pegg / Wright collaboration, but in The World’s End it came across disjointed. The formula simply did not work. It seems that these different aspects of the story just don’t properly congeal into the engaging and epic experience that I had hoped for.
The initial story of a man-child running toward his past in order to somehow move beyond it was captivating and even moving. The sci-fi twist was also intriguing, but did not seem fully developed either. Even though the action-packed ending was fun, it seemed like an outlandishly contrived way to neatly tie up all the loose ends in the original storyline instead of a comprehensive and innovative plot twist.
While The World’s End intended to be a clever genre-bending comedy, it came up a tad short and fell somewhat flat. There were moments of sincere laughter and good times, but they were spaced too far from one another and did not properly keep pace with the rapidly shifting plot. I wanted to love this movie, but I ended up walking out of the theater somewhat disappointed. Unfortunately, I felt as if The World’s End didn’t succeed in fully developing either Gary’s storyline or the Sci-Fi alien storyline, which is a shame because both were compelling. Ultimately, it feels as if Pegg and Write tried to do too much in one film and nothing really shone through to greatness.
The World’s End is good for some laughs and excellent action sequences. The acting isn’t too off the mark, so it’s an easy story to get into. You’ll run into trouble sticking with it though because there’s too much stale air between the aforementioned laughs and excellent action sequences. It’s worth a watch if you’re a Pegg fan and looking for a quick cinematic fix, but you’ll likely just be hungry again in an hour.
The World’s End – C+
C+= This is a pretty good time and you should give it a whirl. You never know, you might enjoy it more than you think going in. It has its pitfalls, but overall worth the effort.