Peggs Gary, a local hero in his head, reunites the old gang to return home and finally complete the legendary Golden Mile of 12 pubs. Aliens complicate the route.
Simon Pegg, a man most recently seen on screen getting twatted with a strange little alien guy with a face like a cat’s anus, in a space-bar resembling Mos Eisley interbred with The Blue Oyster, starts this, his next film, in an austere counselling session. And if you think that’s brave, just wait ’til you get to the end of The World’s End. For that is truly mental. Here is a movie that may be big budget, but has clearly avoided being plotted by committee, test-carded to within an inch of its life, or had the helpful input of anyone from accounts.
How we get from this start to that finish is rather more familiar, although too peppered with twists to be properly discussed here. Safe to say, there are barroom brawls, witty musical interludes and movie references galore. In-between the bravura bookends (each narrated separately by Pegg and then Nick Frost, in a neat individualisation of their buddy-buddy routine), the filmmakers stick very much to the formula that worked so well for them in Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time their skewered paean is aimed at the science-fiction genre instead of horror or action, but the result is the same delicious mix of the deliriously ramshackle and wonderfully whimsical. And who didn’t want a Ford Granada when they were a kid?
It certainly feels like a final finale for the gang, building in scale from its predecessors, if losing some of their emotional beats in the process. The World’s End absolutely delivers on its premise and nearly does on its promise. It is very much the movie you were expecting, if not quite the one you could have hoped for.
In this summer in particular, it is undoubtedly refreshing to watch an entire movie and not see someone or something being lobbed into a skyscraper. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that some of this movie’s USP has been slyly pinched from under it by the unexpected arrival of the similarly titled and sometimes similarly plotted This Is The End. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg may favour outlandish masturbation monologues over subtle interplay, but often the two separate stories intersect, at once highlighting the English-American divide in comedic sensibility and emphasising their shared influences.
The World’s End’s problem is more that it starts slowly. The elongated preamble may well all make sense come the final reel, but when you’re sat watching the first, it feels a little flat. The plot needs our heroes to come to life to really kick into gear, which they thankfully do wonderfully, Pegg freed from his Linda-Hamilton-from-T2 institutional digs, Frost dragged out of his dreary office, and Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan conned along for the journey. Once we join them in the back seat of that aforementioned Granada, tape player belting out The Soup Dragons, the ride can properly be enjoyed.
Frost has never looked better. Mainly because in this movie he looks like Rosamund Pike. In striving for a different riff on the familiar easy dynamic between Pegg and Frost, those lovely intimate moments between the two — the shed at the end of Shaun, the sofa in the middle of Fuzz — have been sacrificed for something more interesting. And so it is that the real relationship gold to be found in The World’s End lies between Pegg and Pike’s old flame. With a shared history of romps in the disabled toilets as teens, theirs is a reunion that starts off awkward but softens into genuine feeling. Bombarded with drunken declarations from our heroes (“I’ve always loved you… And I’m not just saying that ’cause I’ve had seven pints”), she is a beleaguered joy. And, trust us, “We’ll always have the disableds,” is the new, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Other highlights include a genius pub fight in which Pegg’s Gary tries, Buster Keaton-style, to at once do battle and not spill his pint, a hilarious recurring gag about Marsan’s wife (Vanessa, for the record), and the trio’s typically spot-on observations on the idiocy of the male ego — Pegg, busted by Pike for having once slept with twin girls, declaring, “I’m not proud of it! Well, a little bit...” While its continued digs at “the Starbucking” of society reaches a crescendo with a terrific sight gag about the dreary trend towards chain pubs polluting the planet.
The Army Of Darkness of Wright, Pegg and Frost’s Cornetto Trilogy, it is pumped full of the same DNA but has a divergent tone that may best shine with repeated viewings. As a closing chapter it satisfies. For those of you craving the good old days in today’s sea of gloom, it’s a sodding godsend.
Bravely refusing to rigidly adhere to a formula that has been so successful, Wright, Pegg and Frost’s Cornetto Trilogy closer has tonal shifts you won’t expect, but the same beating heart you’ve been craving.