Published Aug 22, 2013A fitting capper to Edgar Wright's thematic trilogy on the earth-shattering struggle to become a responsible adult, The World's End deals with that last bastion of nostalgia: the friend who refuses to grow up. You know: the eternal party animal who never thought beyond the hedonistic impulses of youth. Without this alcoholic Peter Pan's devilish nudging and charismatic shit disturbing, we'd have grown up long ago, but sacrificed many a night of cathartic buffoonery.
Gary King (Simon Pegg, firing here on all cylinders) is that friend: the externalization of the i.d. projected to mask a crushing interior sense of loneliness and insecurity. It's what makes you the cool kid in high school and a loser later in life, if you don't learn to shuck that brittle shell of posturing.
An opening montage that plays like the cliff notes to Dazed and Confused, as assembled by Danny Boyle, takes us through the initial failed attempt of a group of friends to drink their way through the Golden Mile — a legendary stretch of 12 pubs — the summer before college. Afterwards, we catch up with a fully grown Gary at an AA meeting.
His idea of a 12-step program is a little different though. Instead of reaching out to his old friends to apologize and right some wrongs, he approaches them with the intent of giving the ultimate pub-crawl another go. Not exactly on the best of terms with all his old mates, Gary greases the wheels with a little B.S. to get them to agree to a reunion, though it takes a wee bit more to get them all participating in his desperate plan to recapture past glories by getting epically smashed. The otherworldly predicament they wind up facing, however, is more than enough to shatter even straight-laced, grudge-bearing Andy's (Nick Frost, taking his turn as straight man) resolve.
Stylistically, The World's End is Wright's most self-assured film to date. The highly referential director nails all the cinematic in-jokes that helped make Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz staples of geek culture, but also applies the lessons he learned with Scott Pilgrim, creating something that transcends heartfelt homage and satire, finding its unique pulse.
That Wright managed to make a series of bar brawls into the most exciting fight scenes of the year and Nick Frost into a convincing, full-fledged, badass action star bodes well for his upcoming excursion into the Marvel universe: Antman. His talent for frenetic hyperrealism ensures that every instance of violence also carries the potential for great humour.
Beyond these impressive visual sensibilities, and the carefully considered, consistently funny performances of Pegg, Frost, Paddy Considine and Martin Freeman, the final "Three Flavours Cornetto" film is the most touching and heartfelt statement Wright and Pegg have made together as writers. The three fondly embrace, and sympathize with, the stubborn flaws of humanity, taking a rounded perspective on concerns of gentrification and homogenization — the lack of character is creepy, but the efficiency and comfort of predictable qualities are undeniable.
Part of growing up is accepting the world as it is: you work to find your place in it instead of complaining about why it's not the way you think it should be. Wright, Pegg, Frost and company have produced their most mature effort as performers and storytellers thus far to help this tough lesson go down with a healthy side of belly laughs and eye-popping entertainment. (eOne)