99 pints of beer on the run
Fun film is hit and miss
By Tim Pompey 08/29/2013
The World’s End
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan
Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references
1 hr. 49 min.
The boys are back — those crazy Brits who gave us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Now, with the release of The World’s End, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright have officially completed their trilogy. Is the third one worth the wait?
Well, with slapstick there will always be some hits and misses. It’s like watching an English version of Saturday Night Live. You choose what you like and ignore the rest. You remember what’s funny and forget what’s not.
But unlike most American attempts at slapstick, which choose to focus on the physical and overlook the story, Pegg, Frost and Wright are students of literature, old movies and the art of the jab. At first glance, their approach may seem loose, but they know how to sling words and their timing is sharp.
While undergoing group therapy in a local London hospital, Gary King (Simon Pegg) recalls the night of June 22, 1990, in his hometown of Newton Haven just after he and his four friends had finished high school.
That night, King led all of them on a massive pub spree through the town’s Golden Mile — one night, 12 pubs, a pint of beer in each. They didn’t quite make the entire mile, but King still recalls how alive he felt afterward as he sat on a hillside and watched the sun come up.
Twenty some years later, that memory pushes him to escape from the hospital and gather his gang of friends to have one more go at reliving that magic night. The trouble is, none of them like King, especially his old friend Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), and none of them really want to go. They’ve grown up, grown soft, grown apart. One of them doesn’t even drink.
After much prodding and a few well-placed lies, King convinces each of them to crawl in his car and head for their old hometown.
What they don’t know is that Newton Haven has changed, and it’s not just the pub decor. Remember The Stepford Wives? Welcome to Stepford Newton Haven. For King and friends, what starts out as a rather droll and boring pub journey becomes a run for their lives.
The World’s End provides some good comic moments, but it requires patience. The setup is ponderous and while the early dialogue has its moments, it does involve a lot of droning about the past: old grudges, unfulfilled futures, lost loves.
Toward the sixth or seventh pub visit, Wright seems to turn on the switch and release the cast’s considerable energy.
Strange to say, this film is rooted in old kung-fu movies. The fight scenes are surprisingly similar to what you might see in a Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan film.
But what’s most surprising is Frost himself, who, dressed like a proper British attorney with a large doughy center, shows off some remarkable athletic ability. To be sure, he’s been practicing his moves. And running wind sprints.
But pay attention to the friendship between King and Knightley. If anger is love turned upside down, these two are slighted brothers in need of confession. Taking a risk like this, talking about love, man to man, is not the norm, but it adds depth to this film, something you wouldn’t normally expect with slapstick.
To be frank, The World’s End doesn’t quite match up to its predecessors but it has its moments. Long intro? Cheesy finish? Yes. But also some great comedy, especially toward the end, and a lot of that good repartee that you’ve come to expect from this series.
In the grand tradition of British farce, watching Wright, Pegg and Frost make comedy is like watching rabbits. They run fast and keep multiplying. As this trio knows, work hard enough, throw out enough jokes, and eventually the audience will find something they like.