“The World’s End” Review by Jesse Schaffer

In case you were wondering, any reports of Pegboard’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Not that any such reports actually existed or that we are a deserving, newsworthy site, but I just wanted to find a clever way of explaining that despite our prolonged absence, we are still technically up and running. I mean, we’ve still been up and running the whole time, we just haven’t written very… oh fuck it. Let’s review a movie.

“The World’s End” is the final chapter in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, which are a series of films that are directed by Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The first two entries, “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz”, were both rip-roaring good times at the theater; Shaun was a wonderful spoof of movies like “Night of the Living Dead”, while Fuzz did its own take on the buddy cop genre, and did it very well at that. It’s not necessary to have seen either of those going into World’s End, but it certainly will heighten your appreciation for what Wright, Pegg and Frost have accomplished. And seriously, if you haven’t seen Shaun or Fuzz by now, what the hell is wrong with you?

When you were in high school, you knew a group of people that you always hung out with and that you considered to be your good friends, or at least I hope you did. During that time, there was that one guy or gal who you could tell was going to have a hard time adjusting to the world post-high school, and if you didn’t see them for 20 years they would probably be exactly the same the next time you ran into them. That guy is Gary King in World’s End, played with irresistible charisma by Simon Pegg. Right from the opening frame, it’s clear that Gary is desperately holding on to the time in his life when he was the center of attention and all his boys worshiped the ground he walked on. He does what any normal person in that situation would probably do – he acts the same, he dresses the same, and he drinks excessively. All of Gary’s friends have moved on with their lives and away from him, so he fills the void with substances because he doesn’t have any desire to stray from the previous status quo.

The premise begins when Gary decides that it’s high time to reunite “The Five Musketeers”, which includes his former friends Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Andy (Frost), so that they can take another shot at completing the Golden Mile, a pub-hopping marathon that they tried to conquer in high school but didn’t finish. None of them are overly thrilled to see Gary and are even less excited about resuming their juvenile antics from high school, but when he lies about having convinced the others to join in already, they reluctantly agree to show up. Upon their return to their hometown of Newton Haven, Gary is stunned when they don’t receive a hero’s welcome and becomes bitter when no one embraces the fun of the night, including Sam (Rosamund Pike), Oliver’s sister who once had sex in a bathroom with Gary but now longs for Steven. After a fight in a different bathroom with a bunch of teenagers, the group discovers that Newton Haven isn’t the “haven” it used to be and that alien abductions are fueling a hostile takeover.

I went in to this movie having not watched any of the previews or promotional material, figuring that I pretty much knew what to expect. After all, despite the differing plots, there are a lot of similarities between Shaun and Fuzz, and it was a safe bet that the same style of humor and context was going to show up again here. While that turned out to be true to an extent, I was pleasantly surprised by the portrayals that Pegg and Frost delivered. In the first two films of the trilogy, Pegg was the more sensible, level-headed character while Frost was the lovable idiot who always stole the show. Not the case in World’s End, and it was great to see a bit of role reversal. Gary behaved so irresponsibly and then justifiably received the cold-shoulder from his old pal Andy. As always, the two were inseparable by the time the climax arrived, but the journey to that point was vastly different and I credit both actors for not phoning it in and trying something different.

That goes double for Wright, who has yet to make a bad movie or make me hate myself for spending my meager restitution on his products. Considering how outrageously overpriced a trip to the movies is these days, that’s about the highest compliment I can give. The humor is well-timed, the character moments are properly done and everything just flows really well. Even when the group is just wandering listlessly from one dull pub to the next and cringing at Gary’s rampant immaturity, I didn’t find myself waiting for something else to happen or checking the time on my phone. Hell, Wright could make a spin-off solely about a pub crawl featuring these characters and I would pay another $9.75 to see that. That’s with my student discount, by the way.

If I have one complaint beyond high ticket prices, it’s that World’s End just wasn’t quite as memorable as Shaun or Fuzz (if you’re looking for a good drinking game, go back to the beginning of this and take a shot every time I say World’s End, Shaun or Fuzz).  Not that there was anything wrong with it, but I just didn’t feel like Wright outdid himself or broke any new ground. Maybe that’s not a fair criticism because unlike most trilogies, the stories here aren’t connected and we have to hit restart in our brains whenever we begin the next one in line. Still, I guess I was hoping for this to be a little better than it was and replace Star Trek as my favorite movie of the summer. Alas, it did neither, but I’m really just nitpicking now.

When reviewing a summer blockbuster, I always have to grade it with one constant in mind: was I entertained? That sounds painstakingly simple, but you would be surprised at how often people go into these movies expecting it to be a revelation in cinema, or in other words for it to be something it’s not. I understand what I’m paying for and don’t hold it to some unrealistic expectation. However, if it turns out to be more than just another popcorn flick, then I have no choice but to shower it with praise and reward it with a score befitting its status as a quality film through and through. “The World’s End” is definitely more than just your standard summer movie, and while I may not have loved it as much as most peopled seemed to, I enjoyed it thoroughly and I’m genuinely sad to see the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy come to a close. On the other hand, who’s pumped to see Wright tackle Ant-Man now?

Jesse’s Rating: 8.8/10

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