As it turns out, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright haven’t matured much in the past decade. For them, that’s a compliment.
The collaborators from the clever British spoofs Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz retain their sense of mischief for the third component in their “Cornetto trilogy” with The World’s End, a more ambitious concept that can’t sustain its level of energy through a meandering third act.
Perhaps fitting for the third time around, it’s a story of male bonding and arrested development with a nostalgic twist that provides a variation on road-trip and reunion movies.
Pegg plays Gary, a middle-aged loudmouth who remains obsessed with a failed attempt at an epic pub crawl by his group of college friends in his fledgling Scottish hometown 20 years ago. So he decides to reunite the reluctant participants for another try at the all-night beer marathon, culminating at the titular establishment.
The problem is that Gary’s friends have moved on with their lives, including Andrew (Frost), Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine). Nevertheless, their quest serves multiple purposes, especially when supernatural forces intervene that make alcoholic consumption seem like a minor inconvenience by comparison.
The high-spirited screenplay by Wright and Pegg contains plenty of witty dialogue, and Wright’s visual approach brings plenty of energy. The camaraderie between the co-stars and filmmaker create a sense of infectious fun.
Pegg’s character is obnoxious yet strangely charming, sort of like the movie, which ultimately provides more smiles than big laughs.
Part of the issue is the major twist that changes the course of the adventure and puts the human race at stake. And of course the longer the mayhem and destruction continues, the crazier it gets. While certainly not predictable, the final act is more bizarre than satisfying. Perhaps the logic is that as long as all of the characters are drunk, then it doesn’t have to make any sense.
Give the trio credit for at least trying a new idea with each of their three films instead of resorting to a direct follow-up or sequel. Still, there are some quirky details for fans to link the films together, and they’re the ones most likely to give The World’s End a free pass, especially when viewed interactively after a hearty pub crawl.
Rated R, 109 minutes.