Aug. 22--The World's End
Fans of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" will recognize a good chunk of "The World's End," in which the director (Edgar Wright) and stars (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) of the prior films reunite for another genre-busting, pop culture-satirizing action comedy.
But this is one of those rare cases in which familiarity doesn't breed contempt. There's a lot of mileage left in the model, especially since the new movie finally gives Pegg (who co-wrote the script with Wright) the chance to play the wild-and-crazy guy to straight men played by Frost, Martin Freeman ("The Hobbit") and the terrific actors Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, who are not known for comedy.
Pegg stars as Gary King, one of those sad people pushing 40 who can't leave their youths behind. Everything about him screams early '90s, from his black hair dye to his Sisters of Mercy t-shirt and his affinity for Soup Dragons on the tape deck in his Ford Granada. Gary has a dream: Re-assemble his long-dissipated group of best pals (Frost, Freeman, Considine, Marsan, all great) and re-create an epic 12-pub crawl in their small English hometown that was interrupted some 20 years earlier.
The trailers show you the extraterrestrial malfeasance that threatens this crucial journey of imbibing, not to mention the world, but those details are effectively irrelevant, a distraction from what makes "The World's End" a memorable experience.
The movie stands out for two reasons: First, Pegg is hilarious, an energetic whirlwind of faux pas, inane quips and his single-minded devotion to the idea that you can go home again. It's some of his best work yet. Also, Wright directs with flair, keeping the film pitched at a rapid clip and packed with clever touches while remaining devoted toward his characters and the larger thematic ideas. He offers a veritable clinic on the right way to put together mainstream entertainment.
Ultimately, "The World's End" sets its sights on the perils of bland consumerism, pitting the messy but authentic Gary King culture against the world of scrubbed clean McPubs that threatens to homogenize the world over. Gary might be an uncouth loudmouth, but the movie stands with him. In the end, you will too.
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