Friday, February 14, 2014

Movie Review:The World's End (2013)

The World's End (2013) directed by Edgar Wright

Part of my on-going catch-up with last summer's films (i.e. Pacific Rim, World War Z, Much Ado About Nothing, Evil Dead, Man of Steel). I would have seen this in England but we left for America just as it opened. We came back two weeks later and it had already left the local theatres. It didn't open in America till a few months later.

The World's End is the third movie in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy that began with Shaun of the Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz. The movies share the same director, writers, and stars but not the same narrative or characters. Thematically, they share the modern man's problem of growing up in a world that doesn't require him to mature.

In this film, Gary King (Simon Pegg) gets his friends back together to re-do a home-town pub crawl that they had attempted back in school. Gary is a bit of a wreck and a bit of a "lad" as they say in England. He likes to have a good time (mostly drink too much) and doesn't really care about other people so much. He likes to argue and will keep arguing until he wins, usually by wearing out the patience of the other person. He's trapped in adolescence, almost as if the pub crawl was his gateway out of childishness and he never made it through. The other guys have moved on to middle-class white-collar jobs and lives.

Going back to their home town, the lads discover things still look the same (all twelve pubs are still there) but things have changed. The first pub has been taken over by a larger company that owns a lot of "local" pubs which furnished the pubs the same inside. The pubs still have the local name and maybe the same staff but they offer pre-fab menus and national-brand lagers, not local dishes and ales from nearby breweries (living in England, I can verify this phenomena). The lads discuss the old times and how things have changed and how they've moved on. The movie is a fairly interesting character driven comedy to this point.

Then the big reveal happens. If you don't want to be spoiled (which may have already happened if you've seen trailers or reviews or, indeed, already watched the film), stop reading now. The twist is that the townspeople have been replaced with robotic versions of themselves. The lads find out in one of the pub's toilets where a big fight breaks out between them and some local lads. The robots' injuries reveal their true nature. They leak blue oil when they are damaged. Almost the whole town has been taken over by a larger organization with presumably nefarious plans. Gary convinces the guys they have to complete the pub crawl so as not to draw attention to themselves, thus allowing them to escape at the end of the night. His arguing skills win the day and they try to make it through the pubs and the night without too much bloodshed or oilshed.

Thematically this is a wonderful idea but the execution doesn't quite work. In the toilet fight, all of the sudden, in addition to robot locals, viewers have to buy into these middle-aged white-collar guys having amazing fighting skills. A bit too much comes out of left field at the same time. I found the rest of the film not as convincing or interesting as the beginning of the film, even though plenty of interesting things happen along the way. And it was still funny to the end, just not as strong as the other two films in the trilogy.

Parental advisory: Constant drinking (along with some driving); swearing; violent fights but the robots don't have gory damage done to them (though one does walk around with the top half of his head missing, which is played for laughs rather than horror); some conversations about sex and an extended scene of the lads making out with late-teen/early-twenties girls.

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