Aug. 24--"Shaun of the Dead" was the "rom-zom-com" parody of Hollywood's undead fascination that opened a series of films directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost.
Next came "Hot Fuzz," the cop buddy-movie send-up that confirmed that these British funnymen were onto something enjoyable: They could clearly see the silliness in the tropes for these genre films, and yet they obviously loved these movies enough to create something fun and original through parody and through putting a U.K. twist on Hollywood staples.
The third of these pictures is "The World's End," which opened Friday and is a kooky take on the alien-invasion movie that features more of the Brit wit and bromance camaraderie, if not the comedic execution, of the first two films.
The setup finds five guys returning to their English village hometown 20-plus years later to re-enact an epic 12-tavern "pub crawl," only to find the townspeople have been replaced by robotic aliens who look identical to the villagers, but calmer.
It seems these so-called higher beings have descended from somewhere in the galaxy to help us Earthlings stop doing self-destructive, idiotic, freedom-loving things -- like pub crawls.
The five guys are a wonderful collection of talent: Pegg as Gary, the alcoholic who's never grown up; Frost as his former best bud, now an attorney; Martin Freeman as the pal with the hot sister (Rosamund Pike); Paddy Considine as the guy always unable to reveal his feelings to Pike's character; and Eddie Marsan as the group's wimp who's going to have to stand up for himself at some point.
These fellows are never less than natural and engaging when it comes to staging them as old friends. They look just as comfortable with the choreography involved in having them battle robot aliens with blue blood and detachable heads, arms and legs, which can be quite amusing when the parts are put back on in the wrong spot and the battles continue.
However, although Pegg is a natural as the lifelong screw-up who wants to relive the greatest day of his life and keep the drinking game going in middle-age, his jester character is just too dumb to believe that he was ever the "cool guy" in the group that everyone gravitated to, whether that be male or female.
The film has its share of funny moments, but they are too infrequent in popping up from among the awkward structure that weighs down the narrative: The pub crawl structure is limiting in that one bar runs into another; drinking a pint looks the same over and over again; the repetition builds to a point that making it to all 12 bars feels like something just short of a death march.
Only the biggest of Pegg-Frost fans are likely to raise a glass to "The World's End," which just doesn't have the same spirits as its predecessors.
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
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