“The World’s End” Movie Review

     Director Edgar Wright goes back to the well one more time and caps off a trilogy of sorts with his buddies, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, in “The World’s End”.  Though the only thing they have in common is the director and two leads, the previous films, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” explored various genres while injecting British humor and a heavy dose of action.  “The World’s End” is no different and in many ways resembles the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino film “From Dusk Till Dawn” in that the first hour of the film plays solely like a typical, yet well written, buddy comedy only to have all hell break loose in the second act when the group discovers everyone is a robot.

     A prologue taking place in 1990 explains the premise as we meet Gary (Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) on the last day of high school.  The group attempts a pub crawl, known as the Golden Mile, in which they must drink a pint at each of the 12 establishments in their town, Newton Haven, ending with the final pub “The World’s End”.  The group doesn’t make it, instead passing out after the 9th pint, left to wonder what might have been.  The film fast forwards to present day, where the now 40 year old Gary is going nowhere, attending a rehab for alcoholics and sharing stories of his colorful past.

     Gary realizes accomplishing the Golden Mile with his friends could help bring back better times and he realizes a return to Newton Haven is in order.  This is a guy who has to this point done nothing with his life, finding that being the class clown when you’re young doesn’t necessarily translate to adult success.  He reconnects with each of his four best friends from high school, some of which he hasn’t seen in years.  After getting Oliver, Steven, and Peter to reluctantly agree, he ventures into the office of his former best friend, Andy.  Gary convinces Andy to come along, mostly due to a lie he tells him about the current whereabouts of his mother, and the group meets at a train station where Gary picks them up in the same car he’s driven since 1989.

     As the group begins their quest, each find out that the dynamic between them is not the same as it was over 20 years ago.  Gary is a fly by night half wit, who hasn’t a dime to his name and refuses to change from his high school persona to one who acts like an adult.  With the other four in the group having the appearance of successful businessmen, they instantly begin to resent Gary and by the third pub, the group decides to call it off simply because they don’t want to be around Gary.  This changes when Gary makes a startling discovery in the men’s restroom. 

     When a young 20 something arrogantly ignores Gary, who is trying to make conversation as the two relieve themselves, they get into a fight that results in Gary ripping the guys head off. This reveals the fact the kid is a robot, as gobs of blue goo spew all over the place.  When Andy and Peter join Gary in the restroom, other robots follow and we have our first of many anticipated action sequences complete with robot limbs ripped out of their sockets, copious amounts of blue stuff and the observation that our protagonists know martial arts!

     The group discusses what they should do and the decision is to try and act normal and finish their pub crawl.  Soon they realize their entire former town has been taken over in a way similar to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.  It is explained later by a higher being what happens to the actual people, but the robots left in their place don’t age and seem to be incredibly boring and well, robotic.  Wright and Pegg’s script attempts to explore themes in which more and more, we are not allowed to be ourselves and are expected to fall in line with the masses.  Their story rejects that notion and uses the five main characters, led by Gary, to show how boring the world would be without the differences between us.  This doesn’t mean we all have to agree with each other, but we do have to tolerate one another in order for the human race to consistently move forward, rather than back. 

     Exploring these themes and putting them in a comic light somewhat takes away the film’s effectiveness at times, particularly during the film’s final 10 minutes in which the tone completely changes to post apocalyptic farce.  With an unsatisfying conclusion, the clever dialogue and entertaining narrative structure of the rest of the film is left hanging.  For me, this knocked “The World’s End” down a few notches, as I was expecting Wright to wrap up his trilogy in style, but instead I watched as his film joined the ranks of the painfully average. GRADE: C