Relying heavily on rapid-fire dialogue and colorful conversations, “The World’s End” quickly forgets not only the moral it’s trying to convey, but also how to channel its energy to create a consistent tone. A lengthy introduction reveals several characters with intricate personalities, complex friendships, and repressed feelings, only to pitch these subjects aside in favor of hokey bar fights with mindless drones. In every instance that a meaningful exchange attempts to emerge, it’s swiftly suppressed with loudmouthed antics and ludicrous skirmishes. There’s even a parable about human nature and the undying quest for freedom buried beneath the floundering jokes and inexplicably martial arts-infused brawls, but it’s never allowed to fully surface. Maybe the point is that if mankind ever acquiesces and gives up all depravities, they will lose their humanity. Maybe there never was a point.
For Gary King (Simon Pegg), life was never better than his graduation day, where he and his best friends Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Andrew (Nick Frost) attempted the “Golden Mile,” a pub-crawl across twelve bars in their hometown of Newton Haven. Twenty years have passed and Gary has never moved on, content to drink and party as if time has stood still. Reminiscing about his glory days in Newton Haven, Gary decides to get the whole gang back together to recreate the events of their graduation day and to finally complete the Golden Mile challenge. Though his friends have all matured and settled down, they reluctantly agree to return to their hometown and the self-proclaimed “five musketeers” commence their trek across the city. As they progress through their checklist of pubs, the quintet begins to realize that it’s not them that have changed, but rather the entire town, and soon the friends must fight to preserve not only their own way of life, but also the very fate of humankind.
What were the filmmakers thinking? Was the idea an English take on an “American Graffiti” reunion with a contemporary spin of booze and shattered dreams? Or was the lingering on closure, failure, unfinished business, maturation, retrospect, and revisiting the past just filler for an unexciting rip of “The Stepford Wives” merging with “Invasion of the Body Snatchers?” Either way, Simon Pegg (looking like a frail Anthony Hopkins) and his horde of cohorts don’t possess the charm for optimistic flamboyance or believable corporate sophistication. In this regard, when the film digresses abruptly (after a painfully misdirecting, lengthy lead-in) to become an action-packed series of escapes and bar fights, the cast settles right into the parts. Naturally, they’re all impervious to bodily harm or the effects of intoxication.
As the film progresses and the fivesome remember their wilder youths, it’s evident that the crew had much more fun spewing recollections and crudity and drunkenly thrashing limbs (both attached and severed) than audiences will have watching the mediocre slapstick carousing. With Pegg as a tour guide to middle-aged depression and defeat, selective memory allowing for stale jokes, and the script grasping loosely onto a parable to relate a “The Day the Earth Stood Still” type of message for the decay of society, there’s little entertainment or comedy to be found. Once again riding on the successes of the current zombie craze, “The World’s End” features few laughs and plenty of nonsense, alarmingly betraying a loss of creativity for writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, since the inception of the acclaimed “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Rounding out a trilogy of sorts, it’s a pitifully substandard conclusion.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)