“The World’s End” exists somewhere at the intersection of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Westworld,” “The Big Chill” and “Withnail and I,” but it’s not a geographical location. The new film from the makers of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” is about a state of arrested development, populated by a guy who never grew up, his friends who have and… robots.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) can pinpoint the best night of his life. Hours after graduating school he and four friends attempted the Golden Mile pub-crawl—one mile, twelve pubs—in the quiet British town of Newton Haven. It was an epic night for the teenager, filled with pints, pals and even a bit of illicit bathroom snogging, even if he fell three short of the final pub on the list, The World’s End.
In the twenty years since his life has been a flatline. “I’m the same old Gary,” he says, and that’s the problem. His old buddy Oliver (Martin Freeman) is a successful real estate agent, Peter (Eddie Marsan) sells luxury cars, Steven (Paddy Considine) started and sold a thriving business and former best friend Andrew (Nick Frost) is an attorney. Gary hits upon the idea of putting the band back together, so to speak, and relive the good old days. Or as he remembers them, “The camaraderie, the fights, the hangovers so fierce it feels like your head is full of ants.”
The pub-crawl becomes less about nostalgia and more about survival when the townsfolk of Newton Haven are revealed to be automatons enlisting new recruits for their cause. As the friends—now including Oliver’s sister Samantha (Rosamund Pike)—battle the mysterious creatures Gary remains focused. It’ll tale more than DNA thieving robots to stop him from completing his childhood dream.
Like the other films in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy—“Shaun of the Dead,” Hot Fuzz” and this movie—“The World’s End” is a memorable mix of characters and situation.
Once again Cornetto regulars Pegg and Frost are front and center, although playing against type. Pegg’s take on Gary has much more swagger than we’ve seen from him in the past. He’s a selfish motor mouth, concerned only with his redemption and the completion of the Golden Mile challenge. He’s a living embodiment of the dangers of living in the past but Pegg somehow makes him bearable and very funny. He spouts the complicated dialogue effortlessly, and check out the balancing act as he battles aliens and tries not to spill his pint.
Frost plays it straight for the most part, playing a straight-and-narrow attorney who (MILD SPOILER) goes off the rails when the alien takeover plot is unveiled. His deadpan delivery in the first half pays off with big scene stealing laughs in the second half when he lets loose.
“The World’s End” isn’t as consistently laugh-out-loud funny as “Shaun of the Dead” or as action-packed as “Hot Fuzz,” but its thematic core—the difficulty of growing up—is evident in every frame, making it the most mature of the Cornetto films.