Movie Review: The World’s End

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BOTTOM LINE: If you could see only one movie this year, THIS IS IT. (And this begs some questions. . . Why can you only see one movie this year? If it’s financial then perhaps you should skip it all together and buy two burritos from the stand off Myrtle-Wyckoff?)

Gary never actually grew up – he’s a 40-something man-child stuck in the 90’s who’s still selfish and manipulative . As Gary leads the way to the various points in the pub crawl, his childhood friends (now all nearly-stuffy adults), struggle with their own pasts and checkered relationship with Gary. For Andy, he can’t forgive Gary for callously betraying him on another fateful night during in their youth. As the group strives to find their old groove, and guzzle golden pints (of Fosters, no less), they quickly learn that the stiff town they left so many years ago is actually overrun by an oppressive robot force.

I go to the movies to be immersed in a different world, to experience a story that’s at once relatable and totally new, to laugh and to feel a bit of drama. Teaming again with co-writer and frequent-star Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”, “Spaced”), director Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim VS The World”) has delivered a masterful film. And what makes “The World’s End” such a specimen of perfection is it’s genuine humor, it’s surprising depth of emotion, and a clear and absolute love of movies.

Pegg plays Gary King, the trench coat-wearing, Morrisey-loving ne’er-do-well who hasn’t been able to enjoy life more than one fateful night in July, 1990, when he and his four mates attempted to complete “The Golden Mile”: 12 pubs, 5 guys, 60 pints. They never made it. In an effort to recapture the glory of his youth, he recruits Peter Page (Eddie Marsan, “Happy Go Lucky”), Oliver “O-Man” Chamberlain (Martin Freeman, AKA Bilbo), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine, “Hot Fuzz”) and Andy Knightley (Nick Frost, “Spaced” / “Shaun of the Dead”) to join him again in their hometown, a London suburb called Newton Haven, to take care of unfinished business: conquering The Golden Mile for once and for all.

To go into any more detail will give away the fun, ever-escalating plot that aways Gary & company as they progress to later pubs. By far, this is Wright’s most playful film, filling the scenes with witty banter. When the action starts to move at a solid clip, the in-pub fight scenes are lively and excellently choreographed, reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s early drunken master. And when the gang kicks the asses of the robots, the body parts satisfyingly snap like Crash Test Dummies.

Pegg leads the cast, and his character gives the film both a strong emotional storyline. His Gary’s cockeyed optimism entices us into his outrageous adventure, guiding the audience to the promised land. Frost gives his best performance yet, playing a more straight-laced lad than usual. He keeps the world grounded and his determined presence, in all reality, provides the backbone of the story. Marsan, Considine and Freeman round out the cast, providing a great menagerie of personalities to keep every moment lively. Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan and Bill Nighy round out The World.

My only hesitation that prevents me from awarding a full five banjo-playing squirrels is the story’s… verbose… climax. I can appreciate the difficulty in ending a story about the world ending. I liked the epilogue and how things wrapped up but, if I’m to be honest, I was a bit bored. But mark my words friends, watching that scene talking to a Bill Nighy-voice being is a small price to pay.

Although I dislike the phrase, I have to use it (because it’s one of the few times when appropriate): “The World’s End” is a love letter to cinema. Wright et al have embraced film’s ability to deliver a strong story with a bit of whimsy and levity. When I saw this film, I imagined my feelings of excitement and wonder were similar a fan attending an opening weekend screening of early Spielberg or Lucas films. Once the reels start, my jaw was dropped. I was blown away by the personality and texture of the film, not to mention complete technical control – all helmed by Wright.

And, to just go on record, I don’t give too much credence to this so-called “Cornetto Trilogy.” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and this film aren’t just a set of films that will go well in a DVD box-set (though of course they will); what we have here is a group of filmmakers finding hitting their stride. I pity the fool who doesn’t see this.