The World’s End
Of Suds and Sods
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Review written by Robert D. Patrick
The World’s End is about five raucous, syllable bending Brits whom white knuckle barley pops with feverish gusto (most of that is accurate). The old pals reunite, after absconding from one another twenty years earlier, to take on a fanged beast of a pub crawl that they failed to slay in their youth. The mad capped league of friends, headed by the mercurial booze hound Gary King (Pegg), suit up to take on twelve taverns in one night. It’s the kind of drinking session that Nic Cage would salivate over in Leaving Las Vegas. While most of the friends in the group have maturated, Gary has regressed into a raincloud with a nervous system. He is a bedraggled sod that dresses like The Clash’s Joe Strummer, and drinks like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend. Because of his ruffian nature and his monomaniacal attitude toward pursuing a superfluous pub crawl, his friends join him, but only begrudgingly.
When the dapper buddies – and Gary King – arrive in their sleepy hometown, glasses begin to clink, hops start to tenderize livers, and mouths become frothier than a pack of rabid hounds. It’s a boys club of salacious wise-cracking and gam-gawking. And, like most obligatory drinking sessions, the guys do battle with a slew of otherworldly robots. Zany, yeah? Yep. The gang battle more robots than The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi could shake a stick at. Dead-eyed, stoic and anatomically built like Legos, these shuffling, pseudo-androids are somewhere between Stepford Wives and buzz saws. The aforementioned beings have taken over the town, therefore impeding the pub crawl, and sending Gary King and company into a frenzy of reluctant combat. What follows is a cocktail of barbed levity and bombastic jaw thumping. Limbs whir and eyes open wider than a giant squid. Director Edgar Wright’s style punctuates bone splintering mayhem and deadpan quips. It’s a formula that has worked in all of his previous films, starting with the great Shaun of the Dead, and it continues to be a mainstay in The World’s End.
Simon Pegg returns for more comedic, brow contorting physical comedy. Meanwhile, Nick Frost returns as Pegg’s caddy. Joining them are Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine. Throughout the film, the band of heroes have palpable chemistry. None of the players supplant one another, even though they are all seasoned character actors with formidable oeuvres. The jokes in The World’s End range from droll retorts to slapstick antics. They are never as sharp or conditioned as the ones in Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but the shadows of the previous films’ jokes work fine in their new context. The priority seems to have been on the action sequences more than zingers or clever gags. Where the action and the comedy stirred together in prior Wright opuses, they seem to separate here. Still, the film is an entertaining, although sometimes aloof, addition to the director’s catalog.
Though there is plenty to be amused by in The World’s End, one can wonder what kind of success it will generate with new audiences. The lack of pop culture references and gratuitous nudity, found so often in American comedies, may confound some stateside audiences (frat boys; teenagers) that are unfamiliar with Pegg, Frost and Wright. Still, I’m glad that none of those things were in the film.
The World’s End is a fun, though somewhat underwhelming, night at the theaters. Aside from the intermittent greatness of dismembered robots and sloshing beer, there is a great scene in this film, near the end, that sees Pierce Bronson make a speech while The Sundays’ “Here’s Where the Story Ends” plays. Extra points for that hilarious sequence alone.