Review: The World’s End

Some years back, I reviewed Shaun of the Dead, a zombie movie you won’t forget and one of the best comedies I had seen in years. Starring Simon Pegg, perhaps best known to Americans at Scotty in the new Star Trek movies, it proved that zombie movies could be creepy and hysterically funny. Simon Pegg must have figured out he had a winning formula, because in The World’s End we get something sort of similar and just as hilarious, if not more so.

Simon Pegg is back as, not as Shaun, but as Gary King, a recovering drug addict who, finally out of detox, is hell-bent on recreating one glorious night from his youth. On that one night he and his four barely legal friends attempted to hit all dozen pubs in their village of Newton Haven in England and drink a pint of ale from each. They didn’t make it but twenty years later, full of zeal and fresh out of detox, Gary wants to find his friends Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) and give it one more try.

There are a few problems with his idea. First, his friends have largely matured while he hasn’t. Mentally Gary hasn’t aged at all, while his old friends tend to be tied down with wives and children. For Gary, that night from their youth was the best time he ever had. He is convinced that if he can recreate it and manage to down a pint at all dozen pubs he will have a new highlight in his life. What is likelier is that they will all be drunk long before they make it to the last pub, The World’s End. Needless to say Gary is quite persuasive and mostly through tenacity and guilt manages to get the guys, some balding and obese but all definitely in middle age to show up at the local train station to give the pub round one more try twenty years later.

Newton Haven was always a nice clean and respectable village but it seems on returning there again after so many years that it is even cleaner and more respectable than they remembered. It is also a lot more plastic than they remember, with the people more conservative and the bars now largely interchangeable. Dragging them from pub to pub like they were dogs on a leash, Gary manages to get the guys to stumble through his scenario while he becomes increasingly wild and out of control.

The pints quickly wash through them, which soon cause Gary to end up in the men’s room. There he soon learns that the good citizens of Newton Haven aren’t quite what he remembered. They used to be people. No, they are not dead, but they certainly aren’t what they seem. They invent a term for them: blanks. Whether zombies or blanks, they sure aren’t human because humans have foibles while blanks are imperturbable. And that drives Gary crazy because, well, he’s crazy and gets crazier as the movie progresses.

The blanks might as well be zombies although they do not seem that interested in eating brains. However, they are interested in getting the guys to become part of their collective, once Gary discovers the truth. They’re not bad aliens, they are good aliens that want to squeeze the bad out of humans and replace it with the good as well as turn their bodies into shells and their innards into a metallic structure with blue fluid running through it. And that offends Gary who can get philosophical under alien stress. For what does it mean to be human if you can’t be freedom loving and assert your right to make a complete ass of yourself? Toward the end of the movie we learn he takes it as his job to convince the blanks of the futility of their mission, already accomplished in Newton Haven. The blanks are quickly moving out across England to absorb other cities and eventually bring humans to a new stage of enlightenment. The blanks are kind of like good Borg.

It’s a crazy plot but it is surprisingly engaging and it gets funnier as the movie progresses. Simon Pegg as Gary is its central character and something of its ringmaster. Pegg himself is also one of its writers and an executive producer. Pegg proves himself adept as the John Belushi of his age, portraying a crazy, out of control, knows no bounds sort of guy who sees the world as his playground and who will always march straight toward fun, heedless of the costs and risks.

Perhaps Pegg enjoyed making Shaun of the Dead so much he wanted to see if he could top the fun he had in that particular movie. While this is not quite the same movie, it has a lot of the same elements, including Pegg playing the role of an eccentric guy. IMDB viewers gave Shaun of the Dead a higher rating, but I think you will like this movie at least as much. Arguably it is the funnier, and clearly more creative movie.

In short, like Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End is likely to be the funniest time you will experience with a 2013 comedy, so rent it. Alas, it left the theaters many months ago.

3.3 out of four-points.

[xrr rating=3.3/4]

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