Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine
You may like this if you like: Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004), The Watch (Akiva Schaffer, 2012), This is the End (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, 2013)
Twenty years after attempting a pub crawl consisting of twelve pubs along the ‘Golden Mile’ of their home town of Newton Haven and falling a little bit short, Gary (Pegg) decides to drum up the original group for another attempt. As the five of them attempt once again to get to the last pub, fittingly called ‘The World’s End’, they discover that their home town is even more alien than it first seemed. Yes I am proud of that pun!
After the middle of the road, studio box ticking Paul, Pegg and Frost are back on home turf and have Edgar Wright back at the helm for the final chapter of their so called ‘cornetto trilogy’. Naturally of course expectations are high, but I must confess I was not overly impressed by the simple and predictable humour in the trailer. However I tried to keep an open mind as maybe within the context of the film they may work better along with the stuff they could not show. Now, I absolutely love Spaced and watch it repeatedly, I instantly loved Shaun of the Dead and still do, and though at first I thought Hot Fuzz was good but not great, with every repeat viewing I have enjoyed and laughed more every time. So that is probably more down to it being me with the problem in the case of Hot Fuzz. After hearing and reading consistently good reviews and the comedy genre not producing anything more than average recently there was a part of me looking forward to this.
However, I am afraid to say I was extremely disappointed. The concept was all there for a nostalgic, funny, action backed and moving bloke film. Apart from the usual menagerie of big name cameos, in Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike they had picked a great cast. There are some great themes at work here such as men failing to accept that they are getting on a bit, as well as desperately and nostalgically trying to relive their youth. There is of course the theme of friendship and loyalty which if handled correctly can provide enough emotional substance for any ludicrous plot development (there are a few). There is also an effective use of an early 90s soundtrack, containing songs that certain characters then come to quote.
Despite many amusing moments, I found that genuine laughs were very rare. I thought the opening sequence showing the ‘five musketeers’ on their original pub crawl was good fun and the scenes of Gary persuading the other four to join him I thought had the right balance of humour and genuine heart. At this point I thought the film would plod along nicely and be immensely enjoyable if not mind blowing, but sadly that solid standard is never again reached as soon as our heroes return to Newton Haven. I have often been accused of being a bit of a snob, but despite all the positive reviews out there, my viewing experience suggests I may not be alone in my opinion. Despite it being 3:15 pm on a rare boiling hot British summertime day, the cinema was quite full and throughout there were very few laughs in the entire cinema. There were occasional titters, but not once did the entire audience laugh particularly loudly.
The talented cast are quite frankly wasted in my opinion, never given any decent material to work with. The humour is often obvious and slightly immature making it hard to like any of the characters. Unfortunately the five characters seem to fit certain stereotypes for plot convenience which feels lazy and contrived, and there should have been more effort on both script and character development.
This being an apparent spoof of the sci-fi genre, this was potentially a good platform for the Pegg/Frost/Wright combo. As certified geeks with extensive knowledge of this genre (anyone who has switched on the homage-o-meter when watching episodes of Spaced will certainly know what I mean) the action as well as all the nods and winks should have been great fun. There are obvious nods to many sci-fi films (The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives to name a few), but there is just never any sense of fun. Even the action feels flat, lacking the usual verve and energy Edgar Wright usually injects into his direction and editing.
I found the experience just about watchable up until the final third, which was quite frankly an absolutely misguided, complacent, self indulgent and mind numbingly boring mess. The entire film is of course self indulgent, self indulgence can be forgivable if the film is fun, but the final third really tries the patience of a saint. There is some extremely lazy writing in terms of the plot and because the characters have been hard to care about any attempt at genuine emotion fails miserably.
In my view this was not as painfully boring as The Hangover 3, and there are some mildly amusing moments, but this is a serious case of opportunity wasted.
The World’s End is a perfect exercise in complacency and self indulgence. This is a film which had all the elements of a great blokey comedy with genuine laughs and heart, but is basically a poorly written, soulless, often boring and ultimately unfunny disappointment.