August 29, 2013

'World's End' pulls off difficult trick


---- — Director Edgar Wright and funnymen Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have lovingly spoofed zombie movies (“Shaun of the Dead”) and cop films (“Hot Fuzz”).

The completion of the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (it’s a British frozen dessert), however, may be the best yet.

“The World’s End” both mocks and embraces the increasingly prevalent apocalypse genre, with a tightly scripted satire that gets crazier and funnier as it goes on.

Pegg stars as Gary King, a high-school demigod who is desperately trying to live in the past. He’s a ragged drunk who wants to be the life of the party. Unfortunately, what worked 20 years ago just doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.

In a sad and desperate attempt at closure, Gary brings together his old friends to reenact what he — and no one else — considers the crowning glory of their lives: a post-graduation attempt at visiting each of their small town’s 12 pubs in a single evening.

For a while, “The World’s End” looks a little like a British “Big Chill” reunion flick. Gary coerces his former pals — all of whom have moved away, grown up and assumed boring adult lives — to come back.

Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine) are relatively easy to convince compared to Frost’s Andy, who no longer drinks and bears a significant grudge against Gary.

Still, it wouldn’t be a movie without the great chemistry of Pegg and Frost, so Andy too eventually agrees to follow the obnoxious and completely self-indulgent Gary one last time.

The actors are good and the characters are distinct, with Rosamund Pike (“Jack Reacher”) adding to the enjoyment as Oliver’s sister, the girl they all loved in high school. Pegg in particular is excellent, making Gary somehow likable despite his many faults.

After a long setup, “The World’s End” takes a weird and wonderful turn into science fiction and slapstick mayhem. The laughs and craziness keep building, and Wright manages to fit the disparate parts together nicely. It all makes a sort of cockeyed sense.

“The World’s End” is smart and lowbrow at the same time, a difficult trick. It doesn’t go for the big showy laughs of Seth Rogen’s “This is the End” from earlier this summer, but it’s just as successful in its own way. Hmmm. That would actually be a heck of a comedy double feature.

Last time I checked, there were several more flavors of Cornetto that could be sampled, if Wright, Pegg and Frost are willing to oblige.

Rental Recommendation: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost teamed up on the sci-fi comedy “Paul” without the help of Edgar Wright. Grade: B+

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The World's End

Grade: A-

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman

Rated: R (for pervasive language including sexual references)

Running time: 109 minutes