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20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King, a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World's End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's. Reaching The World's End is the least of their worries. Written by
Mixing equal parts of laugh-out-loud comic action and sublime introspection, "The World's End" is a thoroughly enjoyable take on the issues of adulthood and friendship
Five friends, 12 pubs, one night: the famed "Golden Mile" is a pub crawl consisting of hopping from one bar to the next downing pints, and Gary King (Simon Pegg, star and co-writer) is determined to complete it with his best buddies after failing to do so 20 years ago. That's the basic premise for "The World's End", also the name of the final pub in the crawl. Director and co-writer Edgar Wright's British sci-fi comedy is the third installment of the "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy, rounding up 2004's "Shaun of the Dead" and 2007's "Hot Fuzz".
Back in 1990, when all-black leather outfits and Britpop were still cool, Gary was the breezy leader of a rat pack (consisting of Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) in school, but now he's a forty-plus alcoholic with nary a career. The only one in his clique still decked in the same get-up he wore back then, he even drives the same car with a cassette player. It's all indicative of how little he's progressed since, especially juxtaposed against his friends' power suits and careers in real estate, law and sales. They're all juggling family commitments and other adult responsibilities. Barging into their routine lives, Gary successfully convinces them to reunite for a single night in their sleepy hometown to complete the Golden Mile, going so far as to quiet the violent objections of his closest mate Andrew (Frost) with a white lie about his family.
The journey across town through the 12 pubs (with epic-sound names, too: The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King's Head, The Hole in the Wall, and The World's End) starts off fairly innocently, with Andrew being the only one who initially refuses a single drop of alcohol amidst man-child Gary's antics of trying to rekindle the nostalgic memories of his youth. So desperate is Gary to complete the crawl that when he's willing to down half-drunk glasses of beer outside a pub he was banned from years ago. The rapidfire exchanges between the five buddies are entertainingly comical, while revealing that their bonds of friendship haven't aged as much as they have. In spite of that, minor conflict appears in the form of the beguiling Sam (Rosamund Pike), whom Gary and Steven (Considine) both loved at some point in their lives.
After the halfway point, things take a paranormal turn and the film ups its over-the-top hilarity. No spoilers here, but be prepared to be slack-jawed or just to laugh out loud at the fight scenes which are interesting permutations of a typical toilet-in-bar brawl. Audiences who've caught the previous two instalments will be none too surprised by the film's tone. The action scenes unveil unexpected athleticism from the five main leads, in particular Frost's physicality and ability to intimidate.
Yet all this apparent silliness is a veneer for more complex issues. There is more to this film than watching a few middle-aged men down pints. "Starbucking", a term used to describe the erosion of individuality and novelty by convention and commerciality, is seen as a negative, an affront to Gary who is clearly obsessed with a perhaps over-glorified past. "The World's End" also explores the issues surrounding the instinct to fight adulthood, highlighting the necessity of shedding one's juvenile past however tightly one may want to hold on to it in exchange for personal growth and societal success.
Except for the somewhat uneven pacing, the story feels fresh, the script is smart, and for the most part, Pegg's Gary is genuinely likable despite his obnoxious immaturity. Pierce Brosnan makes a cameo as a high school teacher who reinforces the resentment that comes from 'not knowing what you want to do with your life'. The ending will focus on exactly that, delivered in a way that is unexpectedly moving.
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