The World’s End (Focus Features, R)

The-Worlds-End 75Throughout the movie the jokes come so fast and furiously that it will take repeat viewings just to keep up with most of them.

The-Worlds-End 500

Edgar Wright’s 2010 film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World operated under the assumption that if you’re good enough at fighter-style video games, you’ll be able to fight very well in real life. Wright’s new movie, The World’s End, operates under the assumption that if you get drunk and punch the bathroom wall in pubs often enough, you’ll be able to fight very well in real life. Seems like a logical enough extension to me.

The World’s End reteams Wright with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who all collaborated on 2007’s Hot Fuzz, 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, and the British TV show Spaced. All of these things are beloved by cult audiences, and The World’s End is likely the best effort the team has put forth yet. At first it seems to be pitched at the Withnail & I crowd (a group I am a card-carrying member of), as it concerns a group of men in their forties who reteam to finish a pub crawl they started but aborted 20 years prior. This requires them all to go to their hometown for the first time in a long time, and when they get there they find that things aren’t quite how they remember…

It’s at this point that they all get to display their fighting skills, and the film here ceases being like Withnail & I and begins to feel more like a cross between the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim and this year’s This is the End; thankfully, the transition is a smooth one and the film remains as enjoyable as it was in the first, more benign half. Throughout the movie the jokes come so fast and furiously that it will take repeat viewings just to keep up with most of them—the script doesn’t really follow the set-up/punch line structure but instead seems to weave an endless stream of punch lines together into one satisfying narrative.

Said narrative mostly concerns Gary King (Pegg), the ringleader and mastermind of the group, as well as probably the least functional member of society. Frost plays Andy, who is probably the most adult and respectable of the group (though he reluctantly agrees to go on the pub crawl, he only orders water when everyone else is ordering beer). The rest of the team is made up of the more boring Oliver (Martin Freeman, always a welcome presence in any movie), Stephen (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan), as well as Oliver’s coveted sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). Pegg here reaffirms what a real comedic talent he is both as a writer (he co-wrote) the script with Wright) and as a performer, as if we needed reminding.

Above I say that the film feels like a cross between Scott Pilgrim and This is the End, but perhaps a more intelligent and relevant way to put it is that it feels like a cross between Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz; a lot of plot points, themes, etc. are common to two or three of these films, which are collectively called the Cornetto trilogy, in reference to a brand of ice cream featured in all three films (what? Do you have a better idea to name a trilogy after than ice cream?). The World’s End is such a funny and pleasing film that I can’t imagine fans of the first two films being at all disappointed, and I’m sure this is going to win many new fans for the trilogy as well. | Pete Timmermann

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