The World's End
Directed by Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright and screenwriter/avatar Simon Pegg belong to the breed of fan-filmmakers, to which you might also add Tarantino, Guillermo Del Toro, or, in very different ways, Almodóvar and John Waters (and even, if you’re feeling funky, Godard). Wright and Pegg are at pains to let you know they love this stuff—horror, sci-fi, action, movie magic—as much as you do, fashioning Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as virtuoso acts of genre-tweaking wit and geeking out that also actually result in good movies. Being an ordinary fan is virtually written into the comic what-if stories of Shaun and now The World’s End, which throw an average, aggressively colloquial bloke into outlandish circumstances. Call it living the dream. (It’s also just a pitch, ever more aided and abetted by flaks and websites who dutifully post PR-provided trailers as if they’re news.)
Wright and Pegg were sharp enough to make their style work in their first two collaborations; their latest, however, misfires. In The World's End, old school-friends reunite for a pub crawl, spearheaded by the least adult among them (Pegg, playing a stuck-in-the-past has-been), only to run into a Bodysnatchers/Stepford Wives-style takeover in their hometown. Hobbled by two plots that don’t so much collide as just feel incompatible, the movie turns comedically stale (especially compared to the not dissimilar Shaun) until it feels as if these benighted pub crawlers, battling their way back and forth across town, are running in place.
Everyone in the film, at least, seems tickled to be there, and Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, and Paddy Considine lend a certain sight-gag kick to the lineup of friends led by Pegg and Nick Frost. And there’s the satire of pub homogenization and 90s pop culture—plus reliable jolts from sci-fi and horror past, such as the Lifeforce-like blue rays shooting out of the mouths of the town’s pod people. But Wright and Pegg’s play with genre is no longer so nimble, the high-body-count fights monotonous and deadened through daisy-chaining. Pegg’s too skillful as this spaced-out bullshit artist not to galvanize certain scenes, and nobody’s asking for a nice and orderly town-invasion film. But The World’s End is a cheeky concept that doesn’t come off.
Opens August 23