In case you hadn't noticed, there hasn't been much to laugh at during our summer trips to the local cineplex this year. Of the top thirty films to open since the beginning of May, only six have been bona fide adult comedies. Only two and a half (The Heat, We're the Millers, most of This is the End) have actually been funny.
And while The World's End won't be breaking any box office records anytime soon, it's quietly slipping into theaters this weekend as the funniest thing to hit screens so far this year.
Directed by Edgar Wright and written by Wright and Simon Pegg as the final part of their Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), The World's End is a non-stop, rapid-fire, brilliant comedy about a quintet of high school friends who reunite twenty years after graduation for an alcohol-fueled frenzy in their old hometown.
On the last day of school in 1990, the gang unsuccessfully attempted the Golden Mile, a pub crawl that requires stops in a dozen bars. Now ringleader Gary (Pegg), who still wears the same Doc Martens and Sisters of Mercy t-shirt he had in school, wants to take another shot at it with the fellas. Even though all the other guys now have successful careers and families (and aren't terribly enthused at the idea of hanging out with the loud and obnoxious Gary for a night of drinking), they agree. The band is back together.
What starts out as a wicked laugh-riot of personality clashes, though, cleverly veers into sci/fi-ville, as the guys slowly discover that their old home town has been overrun by alien robots (yes, robots), hell-bent on turning the gang into robots, too.
While Pegg drives the show with his wry humor and outlandish behavior, his compadres in bacchanalia (including Martin Freeman and Nick Frost) more than hold their own, preventing The World's End from ever losing steam along the way. Without the sci/fi plot turn, the pub crawl could have been a hilarious movie all on its own, but adding it opened up a ton of new possibilities for wildly funny scenarios.
Wright's quick-edit style is executed perfectly here, especially during a brilliantly staged bar fight, and the script is as solid as comedy can get, including the ending which could have easily careened into "preachy" territory but stays on course. And the soundtrack, which includes pretty much every song from early-90s Top of the Pops (The Soup Dragons, blur, Happy Mondays), is a spot-on accompaniment.
The World's End is a fun, dark, complex, and eminently satisfying film. Think of it as a cinematic pint (or two) of Guinness, and drink it down.