Friday, August 23, 2013

The World's End

Perfect comedic insight into mid-life crises coupled with a hilarious alien invasion. Made for anyone who enjoyed "Hot Fuzz" or "Shaun of the Dead."

Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.

The World's End

The World’s End is a perfect mash-up of a mid-life crises parable and an alien invasion movie. I know the two don’t sound like they go together, but in the hands of British comedic genius Edgar Wright, it’s a perfect pairing.

You should already know Wright from his previous darkly comedic British movies Shaun of the Dead (one of the best zombie movies ever made) and Hot Fuzz (one of the best buddy cop movies ever made). Wright bends genres at will, creating wholly original stories out of famously clichéd parts. Together with his favorite acting duo, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, Wright has cranked out a loose trilogy of movies – ending fittingly with The World’s End – that happen to be seemingly endless wells of comedic brilliance.

The World’s End begins with a night to remember. Gary King (Pegg) hasn’t stopped thinking about it. Middle age has rolled around, but Gary is still the same slacker he was in high school. One night, back when they were young, Gary and a group of his best mates set out to tackle a legendary pub crawl. Twelve pubs in one night and a pint at each. It was epic, memorable, and ultimately a failure. Gary’s group never managed to reach the final pub and he’s regretted it ever since.

A couple decades later Gary’s once close posse has grown up, found jobs, and become successful. Andy (Frost) is a prominent lawyer, Steven (Paddy Considine) is a construction big wig, Oliver (Martin Freeman) is a high-profile realtor, and Peter (Eddie Marsan) sells high-end cars. Every one of Gary’s friends has carved out a nice living and some have even raised families. Gary, on the other hand, is stuck. Since that’s the case, Gary would like everyone to join him. In the end his friends agree to try to tackle the pub crawl again because, ultimately they feel sorry for him.

Now I know what you’re asking yourself. “Didn’t he mention something about alien invasion?” Yup. I sure did. The first 30 – 40 minutes of the movie is a deftly smart comment on the pitfalls of middle age. We watch as Gary hides his true feelings and the awkwardness that ensues as a group of friends who haven’t seen each other for years, are thrown back together on a whim. Then the movie segues into a devious extraterrestrial plot that shouldn’t take anyone by surprise since the TV promos are playing up that aspect more than the stellar comedy.

We saw this formula fail with a sickening thud when it was tried a little while ago in The Watch. Here Wright is careful to populate his film with interesting characters and to establish their tenuous relationships at the start. The key is creating a deeply emotional movie that somehow still ends up being a hilarious tale about an invading alien force and the unlikely men who fight back.

Something else that must be noted is with all this fantastic writing and character development, Wright also shoots some dynamite action sequences. Now this is how you film fast-paced hand-to-hand combat. No queasy shaky-cam here. Wright’s action scenes are cognizant of space and distance. They’re extremely well-choreographed, exciting, and easy to follow even though they’re moving at lightning speed. If only more modern action movies subscribed to this style rather than the chaotic nonsense that usually passes for action these days.

At times The World’s End feels like a grown up version of The Goonies. A group of friends on a quest, thrown into an unseen adventure, which causes them to reevaluate their lives. It’s execution is marvelous. One of the best movies of the year.

4 1/2 out of 5

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