Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The World's End

Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, Chapter One

The Brit team of Edgar Wright (director/writer), Simon Pegg (actor/writer), and Nick Frost (actor) have created what I consider a trio of neo-classics: SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, and the first in our new series and most recently released, 2013's THE WORLD'S END. It is not to be confused with the same year's THIS IS THE END, another irreverent apocalyptic comedy but with American wise guys. The stateside film is an amusing bit of noisemaking and vulgarity, but seen end to end with the across the pond effort of current examination rather leaves me craving the branded ice cream after which the trilogy is named (and which appears prominently in each movie).

THE WORLD'S END follows a guy named Gary King (Pegg) who is in his 40s and whose best days are well behind him, back when he hung with buds Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) doing pub crawls in Newton Haven. There was one epic (and failed) attempt in 1990 to complete a run of twelve watering holes, the last of which is named "The World's End". Gary, a recovering addict and all around man-child, decides to get his chums back together for another attempt. As if nothing had changed. Like many before him, Gary learns that while time never quite got on for him, his blokes now have responsibilities. Particularly Andy, now a respectable businessman and angrily resistant to such a foolish attempt at lost youth.

But Gary is an amiable, persuasive kinda guy and soon the gang is riding in the same Granada Mk II he piloted back in the day, playing the same mix tape, which includes The Soup Dragons' "I'm Free" (used to great effect in this movie), and heading back to their hometown. Gary is determined to lead his charges through all 12 bars this time, a pilgrimage that might perhaps validate his Peter Pan Syndrome, or is ultimately maybe what he needs to finally grow up. Or, maybe everyone else, saddled with unsatisfactory marriages and jobs, are the ones who need this journey more?

Your answers to the above may well rest in where you are in your own journey. It reminded me of a debate I had regarding Jason Bateman's character in JUNO, who is relegated to a man cave within his own house, filled with musical instruments and other artifacts of his youth, while his wife (Jennifer Garner) dominates their home with tasteful interior design that all the Joneses who also shop at Crate & Barrel favor. Some viewers find Bateman's character as the selfish boy while others see Garner's character as equally selfish in their relationship, even as she seeks to adopt a child. Most I've encounter hold the latter view, but think a little harder beyond the societal expectations, and you can see Bateman's case. Like I said, depends on you, invisible audience.

THE WORLD'S END takes a wild left turn when the lads visit the 4th pub, featuring a washroom encounter that leads Gary to a shocking discovery about his hometown that I feel is too big of a spoiler for me to disclose. Though, if you've seen the trailers you know that the plot does involve armies of robots with glowing blue eyes, so I'll let you do the math.

The movie is a wonderfully delirious mix of comedy and sci-fi, with rapid fire edits of multiple close-ups, a style we've seen in the creative team's previous films. Here, several shots of beer taps filling mugs. If you're a fan of ale and the joys it can afford, you'll enjoy the film for that alone. Also, how its social lubrication is both ravaging and healing to friendships. Fans of this Cornetto series will again enjoy the expert synthesis of the violent and the humorous, while social commentary informs nearly every scene. There is a funny running gag of the old pubs' recent renovations, how they've been "Starbucked".

The humo(u)r is distinctively British, even in the broadest and bloodiest moments, and the bloodletting is a bit different than in most such films. The actors are fantastic, though Frost walks off with this one, his arch character so wildly different than in SHAUN or HOT FUZZ.  THE WORLD'S END gets a bit heady in the later scenes, perhaps draining away the fun for some viewers, with an ending I wasn't entirely pleased with. In fact, that last scene could've been its own story, an entirely new and different movie. Nonetheless, Wright and Pegg's script manages some potent jabs at conformism and the not unrelated intrusion of technology into our lives. Man's freewill is also examined/taken to task in the later scenes.  The robots of course are not just there to look cool and menacing (you'll understand when you watch this movie), but represent many of the film's ideas quite effectively.
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