The World’s End Review

The World’s End Review

Films made for our generation, I find, often simulate an atmosphere, or a feeling, or even a form that has little to do with cinematic storytelling. Borat, for example, simulated the delight in cruelty and pranks that no doubt many of its fans enjoyed inflicting on their school fellows; Man of Steel, in turn, plays out more like a video game. And Kutcher and Timberlake ‘rom-coms’, while fairly innocuous, are called date movies for a reason. The World’s End, the new film co-written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and the last in the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, simulates the weekend binge. People may watch it and think, ‘My nights out are a bit like this.’

But perhaps that is the intention of the creators, who after all worked together on the marvellous television series Spaced, which continuously made Simpson-like references to popular culture and to itself. The World’s End, as with its predecessors Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, takes a well-established plot of a Hollywood genre film (this time The Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and gives it an English theme and setting. Gary King (Simon Pegg), an alcoholic loner who never moved on from being the most popular boy in school, manages to gather four reluctant childhood friends in order to attempt in adulthood what they once failed: a pub crawl through twelve establishments in their hometown Newton Haven. Gary’s very best friend, Andrew, is once again played by the portly comic actor Nick Frost, this time the voice of reason and sobriety.

The sense that Gary’s friends have moved on, grown up, is threaded through the science-fiction half of the film, as they discover that the reason Newton Haven is even duller than before is because its inhabitants have been replaced with blue-blooded, robot mannequins as part of an alien invasion. The boozy quintet decide that the best way to survive the night is to continue the pub crawl as if they did not know any better; to stick with Gary’s original plan; in other words, to simulate a night out.

Much of the film relies on slapstick humour: a pub toilet battle between our fortyish heroes and a gang of robot yobbos is particularly funny. Yet the verbal gags, it has to be said, lack any real wit. Take, for instance, the Three Musketeers running-joke, or Gary’s sexual mis-banter with an old flame (played by Rosamund Pike). We laugh at the cinema because the collective laugh of the audience almost compels us to, but is it actually funny? Are your friends – and I’m assuming they are not professional comedians and scriptwriters – any less capable of this stuff?

The film has been lauded by pundits and critics as a sign that its creators have matured, since they attempt to handle the more adult themes of divorce, death, and nostalgia’s diminishing returns. This would not make the film itself notable among other British comedies (you could say the same, if you really wanted, about Four Weddings and a Funeral). But the film is worth watching for Pegg’s performance. His characters in Shaun and Hot Fuzz were not unforgettable; Gary King, on the other hand, is not only smug and crass and desperate, but also somewhat more charismatic and charming than his barely distinguishable group of friends. And he has a surprisingly dark history.


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