Edgar Wright and co-stars and real-life friends Simon Pegg and Nick Frost put themselves on the pop culture map. Three years later, the trio proved they were no flukes, releasing the equally funny and the underrated 2007 flick Hot Fuzz. Well, it took the three of them a couple years -- as in six years -- but they've released the third movie in their unofficial trilogy, 2013's The World's End.
It's been 20 years since Gary King (Pegg) and his four friends celebrated their last day of college with an epic pub crawl, the Golden Mile, that tries to cover 12 different bars around Newton Haven, the town they all grew up in. The celebration went awry though, Gary and Co. only making it about halfway through the crawl. Now in his early 40s, Gary never really moved on with his life -- ever the partying college student -- and now he wants to do one thing above all else; finish the Golden Mile. Gary meets up with the rest of his friends who's he drifted away from over the years, Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steve (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and even Andy (Frost), his former best friend he had an epic falling out with, and convinces them all (some more willing than others) to reunite and try to pull it off. It's been years though, and there's something going on in Newton Haven that none of them could see coming.
I really liked both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so when I read there was another film in the works from Wright, Pegg and Frost, I was excited to see where it went. Then, I saw the trailer which I'll link to below at the end of the review. It starts off decent enough if in some familiar territory about college friends reuniting to take on the world in a way. And then it happened in a flash. SPOILERS STOP READING SPOILERS The quintet stumbles onto some sort of alien replacement invasion, the town they grew up in drastically changed in ways they could never have anticipated. What?!? My first thought was simply "That looks incredibly dumb," but then I realized I had a similar thought about both 'Shaun' and 'Fuzz.' The third time wasn't the charm here, the talented trio coming up short with their third film.
What's the biggest detriment to its success? Quite simply, I didn't find it very funny. It just doesn't have enough laughs to recommend. Sure, there are some funny moments spread out over a 110-minute flick, but not enough to sustain the energy throughout. I thought too -- trying to go in with an open mind -- that the genre-bending story of five college buddies reuniting with a possible alien invasion was oddly brilliant in an out of left field, random fashion. It never molds together though, never finds that right balance between the two and in the end falls short because of it. At different points, it reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (loved it) and more recently, The Watch (hated it). I wanted to like it just because of the talent assembled working together, but I didn't. It's a comedy without the laughs unfortunately.
If there's something that helped me get through 'World,' it is the casting. Even with a script that wasn't necessarily entertaining, the talented cast makes the most of it, specifically the quintet. Pegg as Gary King starts off as a truly obnoxious character (intentionally so), one I was worried would single-handedly handicap the story. As we learn more about him, he's still pretty grating, but there's a certain idiotic charm to his quest to complete the Golden Mile. Not surprisingly, the best thing going is the dynamic between Pegg's Gary and Frost's Andy, a more than frayed former friendship as Gary left Andy out to dry years before, his drinking/partying/drugging breaking up the friendship. Now, Andy either wants to give him one more shot, whether it's to end it once and for all or to see if Gary has changed. The dynamic among the five is fun, Freeman's Oliver a buttoned-down real estate agent, Marsan's Peter a beaten down husband, and Considine's Steve going through a bit of a mid-life crisis.
The best moments come from the group, Pegg and Wright's script effortlessly showing what a friendship would be like this. The group has plenty of history, the script giving them plenty of chances to show off that subtle comedic timing, the dialogue pretty snappy throughout as these friends must band together to get through that hell. Also look for Pierce Brosnan as a former teacher, Rosamund Pike as a former love (oh, yeah, love triangle!), and Bill Nighy providing his voice in a key role late as things come together.
I'm disappointed. I wanted to like this movie. I did like the cast. There is a charm, a style with its goofy cuts and hyper-fast editing and zoom-ins on random objects, but it gets bogged down. Not enough laughs, the message in the finale trying desperately to save things. The finale does provide a good twist in its random darkness which provides a bit of a saving grace but not really enough to save it overall.
The World's End (2013): **/****