By Shane M. Dallmann
This is one of the more challenging reviews I’ve ever had to face; because whenever I want to describe how THE WORLD’S END affected me, the result quickly becomes a personal confessional as opposed to a film review. I don’t think that’s quite fair to the readers–but on the other hand, if a film plays me this efficiently, shouldn’t I at least offer an explanation?
Okay, to get your attention right away, those of you who know me at all know how far “horror” and I go back and how thoroughly impressed I was with SHAUN OF THE DEAD: I thought Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright had provided the ultimate tribute to all things Romero while making it raucously entertaining with their own unique flavor (as opposed to merely restaging all of their favorite scenes and winking at the audience). HOT FUZZ was also great fun; and if I didn’t enjoy it QUITE as much as SHAUN, it’s only because Romero’s “Dead” films always appealed to me more than police actioners in the first place. (Okay, I’m aware that PAUL “doesn’t count” because Wright wasn’t involved, but Pegg and Frost gave the fanboys a thoroughly amusing love letter all the same.)
THE WORLD’S END is the best thing any of them have ever done. Yes. Even better than SHAUN. I said it. And THAT said, I wonder how many people are going to miss out on this one because they’re simply confusing the title with THIS IS THE END (which I haven’t seen). Well, the title YOU’RE NEXT! was already taken, but it might have fit nicely… I digress. “The World’s End” is the final stop on a twelve-establishment “pub crawl” that our protagonist Gary King (Pegg) is determined to see through to completion two decades after he and his four closest school chums fell short of their goal one fateful evening…
Through glib, rude talk, the nostalgia card and shameless emotional manipulation, Gary manages to get his now forty-something, professionally established comrades together to recklessly walk “The Golden Mile” and down a total of twelve pints of beer (among numerous side libations) during the journey. The hardest sell is Andy (Frost), who ranked as Gary’s most stalwart and formidable defender back in the day… of course, he’s the one who suffered the brunt of Gary’s carefree (not to mention careless) attitude and wants nothing more to do with him. But of course, Gary knows how to push even HIS buttons.
Gary still even has “The Beast,” the very car he drove those many years ago. Of course, just about everything in and on it has been replaced over those years, but it’s still the Beast, right? His friends have jobs and/or spouses, but they’re still the same old gang, right? And Gary hasn’t changed, not a bit of it. He’s still the King, right? He used to shag his pal’s sister (Rosamund Pike) in the disabled toilet, and he can pick up right where he left off with her, right? WE haven’t changed… it’s the TOWN that’s different… RIGHT?
I don’t have to answer any of that, do I? But just as Gary’s disgusted friends are about to force-feed the King a nasty dose of cold, hard reality, it becomes apparent that Gary’s not entirely mistaken about the town being different…
I imagine you’ve seen the trailers and posters and know just what sort of hell is about to break loose. I didn’t need any of that to sell me this film. By now, I would follow this crew anywhere, and I would have been perfectly content to enjoy a straight-up comedy/drama about aging friends taking one last shot at reliving their youth. But the beauty part is that nobody can assemble movie mayhem into a “real life” situation like Pegg, Frost and Wright. You’re in for cleverly-choreographed action, spot-on musical selections on the soundtrack, and gut-bustingly funny banter… all of which comes with a price. Oh, they’ve played fairly from the very beginning. We were so into the characters of SHAUN that when “Mum” got bitten, it was every bit as traumatic as when it happened to someone we liked in a straight-up horror film. Just because they made us laugh out loud throughout never meant that we didn’t actually care. And you know from the very beginning that Gary’s hiding some serious pain: his boisterous opening monologue is actually being delivered to an unspecified support/therapy group, and it’s obvious that he’s there under protest. Confessing to strangers, to Gary, is pure bollocks. The only way to resolve the present, to him, is to recapture the past. And it hurts.
I’m not that much older than Pegg/Gary himself, and I saw more of myself in that character than I was personally comfortable with. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I feel compelled to share that I didn’t live for pub crawls and hangovers in my youth. You don’t NEED to know that about me, but I wouldn’t feel right about you forming an incorrect picture of me. Still, that’s beside the point. If you can empathize with Gary (or any of his friends), you’ll ask yourself questions like “Would you avenge yourself on your old bullies if you could?” (I actually HAVE had the opportunity.) “What would you say to your old flame today?” (Highly unlikely.) The list goes on. But THE WORLD’S END had me reliving countless episodes from my past and taking stock of all my blessings in the present. And it did it while making me laugh out loud and nearly moving me to tears… all at the same time. As a comic powerhouse, this is prime Pegg/Frost/Wright. And beyond that, it’s right up there with the best of Rod Serling (yes, I’m talking to you, THEY’RE TEARING DOWN TIM RILEY’S BAR).
THE WORLD’S END is one of the funniest, most exciting and most profoundly moving films to come along in a great while. Do NOT miss it.