Ever see a film that looks like it has all the right elements in place to be something truly magical, only to end up leaving you partially amused but wanting more? (Kind of like this blog.) Seriously though, you know the type: a group of friends get together for one last alcoholic romp only to discover that the fate of humanity could suffer a worse fate than a potentially innocent driveway that happens to cross Amanda Bynes’ path.
It’s close to the exact feeling I had as I stumbled out of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s latest buddy-comedy flick, The World’s End. The two, whom are known for the their hilarious take on sci-fi based fare such as Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul, go back to semi-familiar ground about a formerly close-knit group of high schoolers who get dragged into re-trying their luck at a bar loop called the ‘Golden Mile’ back in their old hometown of Newton Haven. (NOTE: Just an FYI that both the crawl and the town are fictional for those drunkards already planning their winter vacations.)
The dragging is done by Gary King (Simon Pegg), the leader of the ex-friend entourage of five, who also is the only one that hasn’t done anything with his life – with the exception of fill it with drugs and alcohol – for several decades since the infamous night of the failed bar crawl attempt. The premise alone intrigued me enough to lure me into a matinee showing, but I didn’t realize the movie would probably have been more enjoyable had I consumed a 12-pack of watered-down American lagers beforehand.
Even the trailer made me thirsty.
Before I delve too deep into the undesirable aspects of the film, I will take a few short moments to share with you what I did enjoy. As is the case with most Pegg-Frost team-ups, there are some hilarious moments abound. One of those takes place towards the end of the fight scene in the loo of a pub as the acronym WTF is throw around with reckless abandon. (Notice Geek Outlaw’s sophisticated use of traditional English terminology like ‘pub’, ‘loo,’ and WTF.)
Another incredibly funny scene transpires during the climax of the film when Pegg and Frost are having a robust exchange of words with the film’s villainous mastermind, voiced by the always good-for-a-chuckle, Bill Nighy (Hot Fuzz, Pirates of the Caribbean, Underworld, Harry Potter, and more geeky films.) If I’ve sounded vague up to this point, then mission accomplished as I’m attempting not to ruin the intrigue of the movie with unnecessary spoilers for those with plans to see it.
Several other scenes caused me to laugh-out-loud along with what seemed like one other person in the theater. Proof that at least a couple of us were able enjoy some British humor, despite the fact stupid Americans like myself rarely understand 98% of it.
In direct contrast with my enjoyment of upgrading to the newest versions of the tech gadgets I love as they are released every 11 days, I did like the lightly insinuated concept of living a much simpler life sans our smartphones. Oh yeah, and did I mention the main plot of the film revolved around beer and a pub crawl? Shut-up and take the money I don’t have!
Now for the parts of the movie that had me desperately searching in and around my seat for a tap dispensing adult beverages of my choosing… of any type for that matter.
For starters – literally – the film itself felt like it took the better part of an entire week to start warming up. Even then, I always had this awkward feeling that the entire chain of events never really hit their full stride until, well, the very ‘end’. Even then, the finale itself felt almost anti-climactic.
Lending to my undeniable Laissez-faire attitude towards the movie as a whole were the characters themselves. With the exception of Pegg’s fun-loving bad boy portrayal of Gary King, it looked as if the rest of the cast didn’t even want to be there. Granted, that’s how they were supposed to be playing it as King was the one who pulled the other four friends out to the beer-fest unwillingly, but having only one person wanting to partake in the core element of the movie for 75% of the time that my butt is plastered in the theater seat did nothing to help the cause. In fact, I felt no sympathy towards a cast of characters that came across as enthusiastic as one gets when they find out they need to go to the DMV to renew their drivers license.
As for King himself, despite providing most (if not all) the energy on-screen, I found myself more disturbed than entertained. My problem wasn’t with the character itself, but with the guy playing the character. Pegg may be a lot of things, and one of those things might be a selfish jackass, but in most of the movies he has starred in thus far he has almost always been likeable and charming. It took me awhile to adapt to Pegg’s attempt at broadening his chops to an edgier character, and even though I gave in enough to accept the idea, I never really got used to it enough to perceive King as truly likeable.
Undoubtedly, the final nail in the coffin for The World’s End had to be it’s release date. With the overall theme of the movie being very close to the other apocalyptic funny film, This is the End, I couldn’t help but make comparisons to the Seth Rogen blockbuster that was ultimately funnier, and dare I say, more endearing. Admittedly, the adult beverage I had before that film may have helped a bit as well.
Don’t get the wrong idea fellow outlaws, it’s not that The World’s End wasn’t a fun piece of entertainment, but had it been released prior to This is the End, I probably would have had a more positive reaction to it without the prior reference material of the other end-of-earth flick to compare it to. What’s more, I appreciated the fact that The World’s End didn’t resort to an onslaught of crude and raunchy humor as did the aforementioned Rogen film. Pegg and company supply laughs with more wit, banter and without the use of masturbation jokes every seven seconds. While that type of humor is undoubtedly hilarious, it’s also much easier to pull off than smart dialogue.
In the end (I should have started a drinking game based on how much I wrote that word), The World’s End suffers from uneven pacing and a case of the “me too’s.”
On the non-world-ending bright side, I did enjoy the film enough to warrant a second viewing. Although next time, before the introductory credits roll, I will make sure to partake in a precursory pint or two… or 12.