In the noble tradition of Old Dogs, Grown Ups and Hot Tub Time Machine comes The Worlds End, another low-brow comedy about a group of middle aged guys desperately trying to relive the glory days of their wayward youth.
Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, The World’s End is the last in a loosely connected comic trilogy that also includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. While there’s no narrative thread linking the films, they all parody different types of horror and action films with Pegg and Frost the unlikely heroes.
Pegg plays Gary King, the former leader of a group of high school friends who, as teenagers, prided themselves on their drunken anti-social behaviour. Now, more than 20 years later, they’ve all bowed to middle-aged responsibility and become buttoned-down corporate slaves and family men. All of them, that is, except Gary who has become even more of a selfish, drunken waster. Now estranged from his former mates, he thinks he can rekindle teenage memories by rounding up his buddies and forcing them to complete the ultimate yob challenge: consuming a pint at all 12 pubs in their home town of Newton Haven in one night. Their drunken odyssey takes a bizarre turn, however, when they’re confronted by a life-threatening menace.
As in Shaun and Fuzz, much of the comedy in The World’s End relies on obscenity, pratfalls and man-child antics. Unfortunately, few of the gags are funny here and the film lacks the hilarious character quirks and wit we saw in Shaun and Fuzz. Gary’s selfish, boorish behaviour and the antipathy he elicits from his exasperated friends are amusing at times but he’s really just an irresponsible numbskull like Zach Galifianakis in the Hangover films.
The action elements in The World’s End aren’t particularly interesting either as, too often, it simply opts for clumsy, drawn out fight scenes where characters, who are supposedly maggoted on grog, suddenly turn into Jean Claude Van Dame. The film pays homage to numerous science fiction films of old and while these references are interesting for film buffs to spot they don’t add anything particularly meaningful or thrilling to the story.
The film’s main problem is that it’s difficult to feel for the guys involved. Pegg is usually a likeable screen presence but his Gary is just an obnoxious yob and the least appealing of Pegg’s film incarnations. Nick Frost simply does a more serious and aggressive take on his typical portly lad persona and is far less amusing than he was in the two earlier films. Martin Freeman is briefly funny as one of Gary’s reluctant drinking buddies but his usual cheeky wit is lost amid the film’s increasing chaos and clatter. The other members of the group, which include Eddie Marsan, who is better known for intense dramas and Paddy Considine, aren’t given the opportunity to make much of an impression. Rosamund Pike also appears as Gary’s feisty former love interest but isn’t given the role an actor of her talents deserves.
The World’s End makes a few poignant observations about the anxieties of people entering middle age, their pangs of regret about their lost youth and personal failures and the impossibility of going home. These themes have, however been explored much more effectively in other films including last year’s Young Adult, Gross Pointe Blank and yes, Hot Tub Time Machine.
The World’s End is lively enough and features an excellent Britpop soundtrack that includes Suede and Primal Scream but given the comic talent involved, it’s disappointingly light on laughs.
Nick’s rating: Two stars.
Classification: MA 15+
Director(s): Edgar Wright.
Release date: 1st Aug 2013.
Running time: 109 mins.
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