'The World's End' Review: Great Laughs, Mediocre Plot
The World’s End is the second apocalyptic comedy to be released this summer, and, though it has a bit of a different appeal than This Is The End, it is very similar.
The World’s End comes from the brilliant comedic minds behind Hot Fuzz (2007) and Shaun of the Dead (2004), but it fails to live up to its predecessors. The film starts out with a great premise: a down and out addict, Gary King (Simon Pegg) makes it his mission to relive his high school glory days by getting his best friends together and finally completing the infamous bar crawl of their hometown. King, selfish and larger than life, has managed to alienate all of his ‘best mates’ since graduation, but he still manages to convince every single one of them to return home for the big event. There’s Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) and Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) – each of whom have managed to move on from their adolescent lives. Both Peter and Andy are married with children and Oliver and Steven both have successful careers. Begrudgingly, they allow Gary to talk them into following him home, only to find that their beloved town has been taken over by alien robots who want to homogenize the human race.
But, it’s not the plot that makes The World’s End fun, it’s the characters. The best parts of the movie are, unfortunately, in the beginning, when the old friends are reunited and take turns trading insults and old jokes. There’s tension, of course, especially between old BFFs Andy and Gary, which makes every joke laced with a bit more edge – simply because one can never forget the awkwardness of a not-so-friendly reunion. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are excellent together, but their onscreen relationship is somewhat oddly developed. There are hints from the beginning of a suspicious ‘accident’ that ended their friendship, but it isn’t explained until the audience has nearly forgotten about it. The only reason you remember in the first place is because the characters keep awkwardly working it into the conversation.
Once the film dissolves into a strange sci-fi farce, it loses its edge. The battle scenes, though amusing at first, make the second half of the film feel like an over-extended SNL sketch spoofing apocalypse movies. The jokes still land, and Pegg is as charming as ever, but one does get the feeling that the plot of the film is not going to be satisfying. And, it isn’t.
Perhaps this is unfair, but one can’t help comparing the end of the film to the brilliant ending of This Is The End, which found its characters in heaven after being saved from the rapture. In The World’s End, [SPOILER ALERT] the survivors are left in a post-apocalyptic world that resembles a mixture of The Walking Dead and Revolution. This Is The End, on the other hand, ended with a show stopping appearance by the Backstreet Boys. For these kinds of outlandish comedies, the ending has to be something memorable that will make the audience leave the theater in stitches. The World’s End failed to deliver that, making me wish I could rewatch the first half of the film to get that joy back.
Still, The World’s End is entirely worth seeing. In a rare feat of comedic genius, every single joke in the first half of the film landed perfectly. From the very start to the point when robots started appearing everywhere (somewhere midway), the audience was laughing. And it wasn’t because the characters were taking turns swearing at each other or making lewd comments – it was because they were being genuinely funny and smart. Pegg, who co-wrote the film with director Edgar Wright, carries the film with his inexhaustible energy, charm and hilarious rhythm. But, that’s not to say the other actors don’t pull their weight. In fact, it feels a bit more like the role of Gary King was simply more well written and more developed than the others. In other words, the film’s success depended on Pegg by design, as he was the one who set up most of the jokes and/or delivered them. At times, The World’s End felt a bit like the ‘Simon Pegg Show,’ and that’s a shame, as the other actors were wonderful, and they all had great chemistry with each other.
In the end, though, I found myself not caring if it was all about Simon Pegg; I didn’t even care that much that the movie’s action plot dragged on. The World’s End is funny, sweet, and, let’s face it, a pretty good time.