Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg tend to bring out the best in each other. There are many who hold 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz' in high regard, for example.
Let’s see how the third installment in that trilogy holds up.
In their final year of secondary school, Gary, Andy, Steven, Oliver, and Peter attempt to do a pub crawl that would take them to the 12 bars in their small town of Newton Haven. They are unsuccessful.
Years later, Gary (Pegg) reassembles the old crew under somewhat false pretenses to attempt this again. They are all vastly different people with little in common with the eternal slacker and screwup that is Gary. Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) are all reluctant to go along with the plan, but they eventually relent when Gary tells them that his mother died.
After a few stops, a few recollections, and some revelations/personal friction, Gary instigates a bathroom brawl with a sullen teenager that reveals the boy to be a blue goo-filled robot. The gang joins in and finds out that nearly the entire town has become these humanoid creatures. So as not to arouse suspicion, they continue their quest through the pubs which will eventually (maybe) lead them to the final pub, The World's End.
Will they survive? Will they rekindle their friendships? Can they put away all of those drinks?
You have to be patient with this story. Character development and establishing the group dynamic are clearly the priorities. We don't get any indication that there is anything amiss until almost forty minutes in. From that point on, it is nearly non-stop action with relatively easily-killed 'robots'. Despite the obviously dangerous circumstances and all conventional logic, the initial goal isn't dropped. This would have been so easy to abandon and the story still could have thrived, but maintaining it is both part of the humor and the driving force of the narrative.
Speaking of the humor, it is intact from the previous collaborations. Somewhat dry, somewhat silly and very knowledgeable about genre conventions/expectations. There is sly commentary on the diminishing charms of small towns as a result of business acquisitions (all of the bars look alike on the inside!) and a commentary on people seeing the past through rose-colored glasses. 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hott Fuzz' had fun playing with genre conventions and this certainly has enough to work with in terms of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'. 'The World's End' seems like it also has the most to say about real life concerns: the inability to grow up, holding on to the past (for better and worse), forgiveness and friendship. Fittingly enough, this seems like the most mature film of the trilogy.
Abrupt tonal shifts aren't a problem here, but the swift resolution doesn't quite live up to the build-up. True, it would be difficult for a small group of friends to truly take on an army of whatevers, but the way it is wrapped up seems abrupt. Thankfully, the coda isn't afraid to leave things on an unexpected note.
We know that Pegg and Frost go well together but Freeman, Considine and Marsan ably fit into the equation. Pegg really stretches himself to play a broad, loutish, and unlikable character which requires a lot of effort and getting used to on the viewer's part, but it eventually works.
Special features include: a making of featurette, trailers, TV spots, and commentary.
'The World's End' is a fine way to end this loose trilogy. While it lacks some of the surprise and genre-tinkering fun of 'Shaun of the Dead' and the narrative surprises of 'Hot Fuzz', this is still a fun romp with familiar faces.
The best thing about these movies is that depending on your taste, any one of them could be your favorite and you would be right.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated R 109 minutes 2014