September 24, 2013

The World's End (2013)

"Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival."

Since I've been discovering far too many good movies recently, rather than tempt fate to throw a load of bad ones my way, I decided to redress the balance with a day of more torture than one person should ever have to endure. There may be no power on Earth which could ever get me to rewatch "Shaun of the Dead" (2004), but I finally watched "Hot Fuzz" (2007) and followed it up with "The World's End". Such a heroic act has to keep karma quiet for a while, doesn't it?

Although I can freely admit that I enjoyed "Hot Fuzz" almost until the end, I only did so as it was a kind of half-way house between the greatness of "Men Behaving Badly" (the British version) and the smarmy creepiness of Mitchell and Webb's "Peep Show" to prepare me for worse to come. Laddish comedy is so '90s and over now that movies such as "The Cornetto Trilogy" (or whatever the Hell these are called) are little more than throwbacks. I liked Olivia Colman's character, was amazed at how realistic Simon Pegg was as a far too politically correct cop, but the running gag with the swan stole the show. Let's face it, "Hot Fuzz" is only a comedic homage to "The Wicker Man" with a couple of lovely gore scenes anyway. Adam Buxton wearing a piece of church as a head is memorable, but nothing else.

I don't know what it is about the combination of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (with Edgar Wright as the director) which irritates me so much. It's not as if any of them owe me money or something; I just have a completely irrational loathing of them based on their movies. Thus, as you can imagine, I really wasn't looking forward to "The World's End"—even the title gave away that it was going to be yet another pub-centric fiasco which isn't funny—but surprisingly, I wasn't dead set against it either. If anything, my pre-movie mood could be described as hesitantly curious.

The thing you have to remember is that I have absolutely no sense of humour. It just doesn't exist for me in any kind of "laughing out loud" way, so I tend to watch comedies as dramas and note the wit, stunts, or happy endings which would place the subject matter in the correct category. When it comes to comedy, I'm 100% objective because I have no physical way of being subjective about it. For that reason, I can say everything that I need to say about "The World's End" in a few quick paragraphs.

Stop reading now if you don't want spoilers!

"This is a pub! We are in a pub! What are we going to do now?"

"The World's End" is very good indeed for the first 40 minutes. It's nicely filmed, the backstory is well told as an introduction, the characterisation is decent, the location is perfectly British, and several recognisable TV faces make everything comfortable. The witty banter reveals that the former bad boy hero is now a bit of a dick, his friends are easily led, and they're all uncommonly stupid, but it's aimiable enough. Sadly, everything goes horribly wrong when the first robots (or "blanks") appear. The whole mood of the film is killed in one fell swoop and never recovers afterwards.

What would have been better as a straightforward comedy about the reunion of old schoolfriends who reveal their secrets and discover a few more during a pub crawl then turns into a stupid parody of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"! WTF? WTF indeed! It's a pity that "Shaun of the Dead" already covered zombies because aliens are too far-fetched and ridiculous to be entertaining for me. I don't believe in aliens, I'm not even sure that there's intelligent life left on this planet, let alone anywhere else in the universe, and if there's one thing which will make me switch the channel on the TV instantly, it's anything about aliens. Unfortunately, you can't do the same thing in a movie theatre, and walking out wastes $12.

After a few text-speak jokes, the second-half of "The World's End" is a bunch of repetitive fight scenes which become extremely tedious by the third or fourth time they happen. There are, after all, only so many robot arms and legs you can pull off or eggshell heads you can crush before the action scenes fall into the same trap as the running-joke about "Starbucking" and identical-looking pubs. Needless to say, the carefully crafted characters are lost among the spectacle of effects and explosions, some of them physically. What a shame.

As I'm not down with the kids, I don't know if Pierce Brosnan's cameo is meant to be a special secret or a selling point, but either way, you know about it now. His former "Die Another Day" Bond-girl Rosamund Pike is on the alternative posters, so you already know that she's in this and is just as easy on the eye 11 years later. She doesn't have a very big role either, but ironically, she's on screen more than Pierce Brosnan in this movie.

Maybe if I had been as drunk as the characters were supposed to be, "The World's End" might been more entertaining, but I didn't completely hate it. Despite easily being the second weakest of the three Pegg-Frost-Wright movies and ending with a half-arsed swipe at our de-humanising reliance on modern technology, I'm sure comedy fans would get something out of it. It's simply a film of two halves—and twelve pints—which, just like this review, isn't very well written. That shitty ending which I'm sure everyone thought would be so clever is still too rushed, disappointing and unsatisfying for everyone except the characters themselves though. Stupidly, I expected more.

Placing the three movies in order of merit, I can now rate "Shaun of the Dead" as the weakest with 1 out of 10, "The World's End" gets 3 out of 10, and "Hot Fuzz" is the best of a bad lot with 4 out of 10. Thank God, I will never have to watch any of them again.

"I know all about you - sex for dinner, death for breakfast"

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