This clever little movie out of Britain, “The World’s End,” asks a lot of important questions about life, friendship and maturity, but has a devilish amount of fun doing it. Don’t be afraid you won’t understand because it is part of a trilogy; this movie is a true stand-alone.
By trilogy, I’m talking about the so-called “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.” This isn’t the kind of trilogy where you’ll need annotated footnotes and a walking geek friendzoid to help you get through the plot and all the tangled relationship trees. There is no new lingo created and you people won’t be meeting at conventions to have discussions in a fictional language although someone somewhere at some future comic book convention might assume a World’s End-ish costume.
Cornetto is a type ready-made frozen dessert ice cream cone that in the U.K. only comes in three flavors: strawberry, original blue and chocolate minty green. This movie is green for aliens and minty for a fresh take on the buddy-reunion genre. If you really enjoy it, you’ll want to see the other two movies: the 2004 zombie-romcombie “Shaun of the Dead” and the 2007 copper comedy “Hot Fuzz.” These movies are not streaming on Netflix and it’s a darn shame at that.
This story has no relation to the 1987 historical fiction novel “World’s End” by T.C. Boyle. Or the 1940 Upton Sinclair novel or the 2000 Mark Chadbourn novel. If you suspect that the title has a double meaning, you’re quite right.
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the story focuses on Gary King (Pegg) who is in a rehab and not doing well in his group session. Instead of resolving to quit drinking, he decides to gather his estranged friends that he hasn’t seen in two decades and attempt to complete the so-called Golden Mile. He means to get sloshing, stumbling drunk.
On this gang’s last glorious adventure together–on June 22, 1990, on the final full day of school after telling their teacher Guy Shepherd (Pierce Brosnan) they just wanted to be free, they attempted this infamous pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. The crawl consists of 12 pubs in a particular order, beginning with the First Post and ending with The World’s End. They didn’t finish, but Gary remembers that time when “they called me the king” and “life would never feel this good again.”
Since that day, Gary has been pickled by alcohol; his desire to be free from school and its discipline is preserved in an older less elegant body. He’s driving the same car which has deteriorated from cool to catastrophic and he’s listening to the same music (“Loaded” and “I’m Free”) on cassette tapes. You might have to explain that one to a few youngsters. Gary probably doesn’t know about MP3 or iTunes and he doesn’t care.
Like many drug addicts, Gary is a wily liar and convinces car salesman by default Peter (Eddie Marsan), uptight and too connected to his cell phone real estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), the hopeful Steven (Paddy Considine) and powerful lawyer Andrew (Nick Frost) to join him. Unlike Gary, his friends all have families and responsibilities of white collar jobs. Yet who doesn’t want to go back home and remember, at least for a night or weekend, those simpler days of youth when life held so much promise? Gary is late picking them up from the train station, but they get to the B&B and set out. There are tourist maps of the Golden Mile, but Gary has his old one.
The once charming old pubs of yesteryear have gone corporate and pretty much look all the same, except for their names. The names of each pub do have significance and the signs are like tarot cards regarding the fortune of our lads. You could also think of this an anti-twelve step sobriety program although the results are a bit more alarming. During their journey, in the men’s restroom no less, Gary discovers that the town is being taken over by aliens.
These are not illegal aliens that somehow got to the shores of England by plane or boat and are swarming, but the kind that can make galactic journeys and construct cyborgs. These cyborgs aren’t frightening in the slick borg tradition set up by “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” but closer to “The Stepford Wives.” Except the change isn’t limited to wives or women. The cyborgs or as the five unlucky lads call them robots or blanks, are made from human DNA and are made to facilitate the coming of an alien race. This alien race wants to bring us world peace but is troubled by a few human glitches so they decided to replace a few people. Newton Haven’s new motto is: We build. We improve. We perfect.
Yet is perfection what we really want just like the charmless, standardized franchised pubs which makes everywhere familiar in a dull sameness? Despite the discouraging sameness of the pubs and the more disturbing literally blue liquid blood of the cyborgs, Gary and his friends decide to continue the Golden Mile plan so as not to attract attention. As they get drunker they have less control over what they say and who they say it to and bad decisions are made. Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) drops in and stirs up old resentments between Gary and Steven, but also causes Gary to do something stupid, yet unselfish.
In Gary you might see someone you know or if not, you might want to gaze into a mirror with a more critical eye and ask a frenemy and not your cat for honest advice. Director Edgar Wright sets a quick pace and there are enough twists and turns, absurd actions that aren’t necessarily wise, but fit within the logic of the characters.
“The World’s End” is a wild ride that has you alternately sitting at the edge of your seat and then rolling back laughing. This movie might warn you off of pub crawls in small English towns, particularly ones that seem to picturesque. If not someone somewhere will surely think of creating a Golden Mile pub crawl 12-step program. Things whiz by so fast and furiously, you might want to see this movie again and you’ll surely want to see Pegg and Wright and their gang take on another food fancy for a future trilogy. This last Cornetto left me wanting more.
So gather your friends–old or new–and have a few chuckles as Gary and his gang journey together to “The World’s End.” A toast to Gary the King and the last Cornetto.