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Arts and Entertainment

Join Simon Pegg, Nick Frost & Edgar Wright In A Riotous Crawl To 'The World's End'

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The sci-fi comedy The World's End re-teams director Edgar Wright with actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost after successful outings with Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). And once again, the triumvirate has created a brilliantly funny and action-packed movie.

But what sets this third film in the "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy" (as Pegg refers to it) or the "Three Flavours: Cornetto Trilogy" (Wright's nickname) is its more mature and reflective—and at times even touching—approach and story. In other words, in between the laughs and fights, The World's End has heart.

The film starts innocuously enough, with a reluctant reunion. Gary King (Pegg) is a middle-aged guy whose glory days peaked in high school (you know the type). His biggest regret is never finishing the epic Golden Mile pub crawl he and his buddies attempted in 1990. Despite getting through the pubs like The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, etc., the boys never made it to the last stop on the list: The World’s End. Something about the fights, vomiting and passing out got in the way of reaching that goal.

Fast-forward 20-something years, and most of the “five Musketeers” have grown into respectable businessmen and professionals. Except, of course, Gary King. He still wears the Doc Martens, trenchcoat and the Sisters of Mercy T-shirt. And despite a few more wrinkles and touches of grey, he exists in a state of suspended animation. Gary lives his life in Purgatory—with high school as heaven and hell, well, that's at the metaphorical world's end.

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Gary surprise visits each of his estranged friends—Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Andy (Frost)—and using his dominating and magnetic personality, goads or tricks each one of them to return to their suburban hometown of Newton Haven to re-attempt the drinking marathon. After all these years, he's still their pack leader—he's still "Gary F-ing King." Picking the guys up at a train station in “the Beast,” (the same car he had in high school), he enthusiastically says, “Let’s get this antique on the roadshow.” Offhanded one-liners like this pepper the script, which Wright and Pegg co-wrote.

Things have changed for the schoolmates. For one, none of them drink as much as they used to (except Gary). And Andy, Gary’s former best friend, who seems to despise what Gary’s become—or remains—doesn’t drink at all. The irony of the teetotaler at a pub crawl leads to pretty comical and bitter exchanges between the former friends. When Andy asks for a tap water at the first pub, Gary mocks him for “drinking f*ucking rain.” When Andy reminds Gary that he hasn’t had a drink in 16 years, Gary retorts, “You must be thirsty…”

Of course, there a sci-fi twist to the homecoming. Things are not all as they seem in Newton Haven. The people, while they may look the same, have changed. They've been invaded by robots from outer space. The pub crawl to The World’s End takes on a whole other meaning with the five fighting for the future—not just their own, but for the entire human race’s, too. With each step of the way down the crawl, the drunker they get, too. While the more cerebral first half of the film waxes in nostalgia for the guys, the second-half of the film whizzes by with action-packed fights and chase scenes.

If we had to change anything about the film, we’d have cut Gary’s ending monologue. It felt a little too preachy, even while he was explaining to the “enemy” (Bill Nighy's voice); how uncontrollable and f-ed up the human race really is. There was also a love triangle that wasn’t fully hatched between Gary, Steven and Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). We didn’t believe in the chemistry with either pairing.

The actors of The World’s End are all at the top of their respective games. Their natural comedic timing paired with the script's droll British humor easily make this film one of the funniest we’ve seen in a long time. What steals the film, though, is the rapport between Gary and Andy, even when they supposedly hate each other. We learn in very quick and subtle ways that life didn't turn out as planned for either of the guys. Frost’s serious-minded Andy is a welcome departure from the daft/happy-go-lucky characters of the previous films. There's a depth and maturity in Frost's portrayal, even as Andy regresses (in a good way) during the pub crawl.

The World’s End turns out to be as much about Andy's own personal journey as much as Gary’s reclamation of his glory days.

The World's End opens everywhere tomorrow (Aug. 23).

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