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Review: The World’s End (2013)

The World’s End (2013)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Premise: A group of middle aged men reunite in a small English town to finish the bar crawl that they failed to complete in your youth. In the process of drinking their way across town, the men discover that aliens have taken over the community.

What Works: The World’s End is the third film is a series of collaborations between writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/actor Simon Pegg, the previous being Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Just as Shaun of the Dead lampooned zombie pictures and Hot Fuzz satirized buddy cop movies, The World’s End sends up alien invasion and apocalypse cinema. Satire and parody are nothing new, but the Wright/Pegg cooperative exemplifies how this should be done. Unlike the disastrous series of fill-in-the-blank-Movie titles by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, the filmmakers of The World’s End give the impression that they really love and understand the movies that they reference and have made this picture for audiences who feel the same way. As any good satirist should, the filmmakers recognize the clichés of the genre and present them in an absurd way and the movie is really good fun. The joy of The World’s End is partly found in Edgar Wright’s filmmaking style. So many Hollywood studio movies look interchangeable with no discernable artistic stamp but Wright has a particular style of shooting and editing and his films share a distinct tone that is playful while also demonstrating a masterful control of the filmmaking. Another aspect of Wright’s filmmaking is his music choices and like his other movies The World’s End features a selection of cues that enhance the picture’s playful qualities. The World ‘s Ends is also assisted by the performances of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the lead roles. Pegg in particular is very impressive here. He has the problem of having to play a character who is an awful person but Pegg manages to make himself an engaging character who is entirely watchable and frequently hysterically funny.

What Doesn’t: The films of Edgar Wright have a particular style and a specific sense of humor, so viewers who were put off by Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are unlikely to enjoy The World’s End. But fans of Wright’s other movies may be surprised by how much of Shaun of the Dead is repeated in The World’s End. The new picture has the same basic structure and premise as the 2004 film, and the similarities in the middle third are so striking that it plays like a remake in which extraterrestrials have taken the place of zombies. Although its set pieces are bigger and better, the characters aren’t quite as memorable as those of Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End suffers from some forced plot turns. The movie opens as a mid-life crisis story like The Big Chill in which old friends reunite to reminisce about their youth. The opening plays like a mainstream drama with snappy writing and direction and impressive performances by Simon, Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan. The opening is so strong that when the movie diverts in a sci-fi direction it is actually a little disappointing, although it recovers. When the men discover the alien occupation they continue with their bar crawl under the auspices that they have to maintain the illusion of ignorance. It’s a thin justification to keep up the bar crawl gag and it is absurd even within the conceit of the movie. The World’s End concludes on a coda that does not coalesce with the rest of the movie. The ending does not bring the themes or the story to much of a conclusion. Instead it plays like an overindulgent set up for another movie.

Bottom Line: The World’s End is disjointed but it is also one of the most enjoyable movies of the summer of 2013. Despite its similarity to Edgar Wright’s other films, The World’s End is refreshingly distinct in a movie marketplace that is increasingly homogeneous and it’s a whole lot of fun.

Episode: #454 (September 1, 2013)