At the Movies: The World’s End

Sorry this is running late. Four straight days of writing travelogues finally caught up with me.

The summer’s second apocalyptic comedy has arrived in theaters. And while “The World’s End” is nowhere near as crude and ribald as the earlier “This Is The End,” it’s a much funnier film.

Mainly because English filmmaker Edgar Wright relies more on story and character to make you laugh than gross-out slapstick and vulgar language.

Simon Pegg stars as Gary King, perpetually drunk and perpetually 18 years old despite the fact that he’s pushing 40. Twenty years ago he and his buddies — Andrew (Nick Frost), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine) — made a valiant attempt to complete The Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl that would end at an establishment called The World’s End.

The-Worlds-End-2013-Movie-Poster1The teens never made it to the finish pub, but Gary still looks back on that night as the highlight of his life. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been much of a life.

Gary becomes determined to get the boys back together and this time finish the job. Peter, Oliver and Steven are agreeable, but all doubt that Gary will be able to get his former best friend Andrew to join them. Something bad went down between them years ago and as a result Andrew no longer drinks.

But Gary manages to get Andrew to come along and soon they’re all bouncing down the highway back to their old hometown. Gary’s still driving the same car and listening to the same cassette tapes.

On their second stop the crew meet up with by Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). Gary and Steven once had a rivalry over Sam and seeing her again brings out the lust in both men.

You can’t spend the night drinking without a pointless brawl and at the next pub Gary gets into a fight in the bathroom with a young man. After accidentally knocking his head off, Gary learns the young punk was actually a robot. A larger fight breaks out between the youth’s friends and Gary’s posse, resulting in a bathroom full of robot parts leaking blue blood, or robot fuel.

You’d think this would change everything, but Gary is determined to complete the pub crawl. After all, they don’t know who to trust and if they stop now, people will become suspicious.

“The World’s End” is the third action-comedy collaboration between director Wright and actors Pegg and Frost (Pegg co-wrote the script with Wright). If you were a fan of those previous works — “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” — you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also know what to expect — a clever, witty story with sharp dialogue, unexpected violence, moments of dark seriousness, and more craziness.

It’s an odd patchwork of comedy and much more refreshing than the R-rated, offend-at-all-costs humor that the Yanks in Hollywood keep cranking out.

The cast is all fine but the spotlight is clearly on Pegg and he does terrific work as a middle-aged man passionately, desperately looking for one more great night. Frost is equally effective as his foil, the withdrawn adult who finally breaks loose while still trying to keep his best friend from going too far.

The film’s one flaw is that it starts to drag and goes on too long. It might have been better if there had only been eight or 10 pubs instead of 12. The post-apocalyptic ending as it relates to Gary doesn’t really work.

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