Monday, August 19, 2013

Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg's THE WORLD'S END: surprise entertainment of the year

Who'da thunk it? In this summer season of stupidities, in which something like World War Z (wow, another zombie movie!) can actually pass for an intelligent blockbuster, along comes a special-effects laden film that's super smart, super entertaining (for real adults), super fast, super silly, too -- offering a kicker that is actually pretty profound.

THE WORLD'S END is the most all-out fun I've had at the movies this summer, certainly since This Is the End, to which it bears more than a little comparison. That movie, which tackled Armageddon Hollywood style and from Hollywood's viewpoint, was also a lot of fun. This one goes it several notches better by being smarter, funnier, and well... British, and consequently not so self-referential (drink takes the place of fame). As directed and co-written by Edgar Wright (above, right), and co-written and starring Simon Pegg (below), this is even better than the pair's earlier Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz because it risks more and explores more, all the while delivering some grand entertainment.

I think the most amazing thing about this movie is that it takes the form of the old "quest" scenario (wouldn't Joseph Campbell be impressed!) and then takes that quest into practically uncharted territory. The irony, of course, is that quest is for one more glass of ale and the opportunity for five old friends from school to reunite and drink themselves silly as they recreate a pub-hopping event from their youth that they never quite finished.

The five fellows (above) are just about perfectly portrayed by Pegg (at center) and his usual co-star Nick Frost (left), Eddie Marsan (near left), Paddy Considine (near right) and Martin Freeman (right). Each stands out in his own way, with Mr Pegg, as usual, the furthest out.

Also along for the ride and adding immeasurably to the fun while grounding things (as women tend to do) is Rosamund Pike, shown at left. Ms Pike (Barney's Version to Surrogates, Fugitive Pieces to Made in Dagenham) is a pleasure to watch in whatever she appears, and so it is here.

Events grow crazier while not for a moment losing their weird crediblity, and so the fun keeps escalating exponentially. Mr Wright wrote a short note which was copied and handed out to all us critics at press screenings, asking us to allow audiences to experience the movie in the same way that we had -- meaning all surprise and no spoilers. Amen to that! There are plenty of those surprises, large and small, none of which I hope have escaped via this review.

I must say that this is difficult because some of the inspired wordplay is utterly divine; you'll just want to repeat it immediately. A paean to beer, Brit style and bad behavior, The World's End (the name of a pub, by the way) is gleefully anarchic in a very smart manner, as it asks an impertinent question: Is humanity, such as it is, really worth saving? And the answer? Ooooh... No spoilers here.

In their epic quest to down just one more glass of ale, the writers/director/actors have also given us a movie that is achingly funny, shockingly smart, even oddly moving and, well, “deep.” This is grand entertainment and great story-telling that honors both the groundlings and us smarty-pants critics by giving us all a good time.

The movie, at this point one of the year's best -- from Focus Features and running 109 minutes -- opens Friday all over the place. To find a theater near you, click the web site, enter your zip code, then click on whichever ticket procurer you prefer....

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