Movie Review: The World’s End

Ah yes, a British movie. I went to see The World’s End, and I couldn’t help but thinking about all of the movies I’ve seen that were made across the Atlantic: not too many. I’m sure they make lots of films over there, but the ones that make it to me, to a pretty average American moviegoer, I don’t know, it’s like The King’s Speech, Monty Python … do Hugh Grant movies count? They totally don’t count. Even in his most British pictures, he’s really just something on loan from the UK to Hollywood, like even though Love Actually took place across the pond, there were all sorts of American actors and tropes and …

world's end robot

And what am I talking about, Love Actually? I never saw Love Actually, I just remember overhearing someone else talk about it once. Someone really stupid. And I could just tell how inauthentic the whole thing was, you know, from this non-Englishman’s point of view.

The World’s End is billed as the third part in a trilogy of sorts, although besides the principle cast and writing team, there’s not really a coherent story linking all three parts. Shaun of the Dead imagined how Simon Pegg would confront the zombie apocalypse, Hot Fuzz had something to do with police officers (I never actually saw Hot Fuzz,) and The World’s End follows five high school friends who reunite twenty years later to finish a twelve-stop pub crawl they almost completed back when they were eighteen.

I realized pretty soon into the movie that I was laughing a lot more than I would be at this point during an American movie, during parts in any movie that I wouldn’t normally find laugh-out-loud funny. I attributed a lot of the giggles to the fact that everybody’s talking really fast, jokes weaved tightly into every sentence, with absolutely no stopping for even the briefest of pauses between syllables or breaths. It’s just non-stop dialogue and everybody’s speaking in an accent and, yeah, I guess that is pretty funny.

The humor is very dark. Simon Pegg’s main character Gary King hasn’t developed at all since the early 1990s montage that opens the film. By the time we meet our protagonist in the present day, twenty years of partying have taken their toll. The whole intro, the extended speech explaining the almost-made-it night of twenty years ago, it winds up being told by King in the middle of a twelve-step meeting, and even the other participants seem disturbed by the enthusiasm in which he recounts the best day of his life.

King rallies his old friends and convinces them to have a proper night. Twelve bars, twelve beers, all culminating at The World’s End, a fitting name for the final tavern. As the Five Musketeers head out to their old home town, in King’s high school car, with the same exact cassette mix tape never having been removed from the tape deck, the gang starts to question the psychic hold their friend seems to manage over everyone else.

Just as the adults step in to make some belated adult decisions, it turns out that the town has been taken over by robots. And even though that’s pretty much the whole plot of the movie, once things get rolling, a lot of the genuine character-driven plot evaporates. I get it, I guess, that this kind of a spoof on a disaster movie is a way to confront existential problems, addiction, middle-age, conformity, feelings of isolation, but I just couldn’t help but feel that the group dynamic was building toward something. And then the robot thing happens and that’s basically the rest of the movie.

All the way until the really bizarre ending, something that, after having seen Monty Python, I’m just going to go ahead and make the sweeping generalization that all British movies have to have crazy endings. Except for The King’s Speech. Did I mention that I saw The King’s Speech already? Well, I saw it. Although, I guess it’s not all that normal of a movie, right? A king? With a stutter? And the doctor is some crazy guy from Australia? That didn’t really happen, did it?

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