It’s an oddity to think that a film that dwells on bouts of addictions, lovelorn relationships, and the pangs of adulthood would amount to the best comedy of 2013. But Edgar Wright’s The World’s End does just that in this contextualized genre effort that pulls heavily from science-fiction sources yet irrevocably remains human. Grounded within the most absurd of narrative devices, Wright’s penchant to utilize genre as a means of padding his narrative, not dictating it, has made him one of the most viable directors working today. Whether it is Shaun reconciling all his relationships amid a zombie infestation in Shaun of the Dead or the bro-ing down of two cops while investigating a utilitarian cult society in Hot Fuzz, Wright’s focus on characters presents itself as a welcome alternative to much of the current mainstream Hollywood fodder released this summer.
Cajoled by his rehab focus group, Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunites the old high school gang for a pub crawl that proved too much an obstacle the first time around. Now well into their 40s and living comfortable adult lives in London, their binge drinking days are well behind them. But it’s Gary, still sporting the same duster that he wore back in the early 90s, that guilt’s them into returning to complete the golden mile. King’s visit to each friend plays out like scenes from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, as his desperate pleas to unite the gang presents itself as a survival instinct. King throws everything at these men, from promises he will not be able to keep to outright lies to convince them to go. That desperate yearning underscores a melancholic tone that stays at a steady simmer for most of The World’s End, eventually foaming out of control in the film’s final act.
For nearly half of The World’s End, the film placates itself as a humorous geographic study on the globalization and conformity of a small-suburban town. From self-delusion on Gary’s part thinking the group left a carbon foot-print on the town (nearly everyone they encounter have forgotten of the quintet) to the Starbuckian transformation of several pubs, Wright’s staging a clever analysis of the town’s socially cationic state. The booze is poured, the shots are had, and the middle-aged group finds themselves making the slow trek to the final pub - the one that eluded them before – the World’s End.
The film becomes something entirely different as the group’s night wanes on, as Wright deploys the sort of comic genre mechanics that he’s been known to use. The film’s marketing efforts have highlighted these aspects, but part of the magic and wonder of The World’s End comes from knowing less about these more fantastic components. The sweeping delirium of transitioning from a film about reminiscing youth and binge drinking to straight-faced science-fiction (don’t worry, the binge-drinking is still there) is simply flawless.
The trifecta of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost over the course the last fifteen years has produced some of the most entertaining pieces of television and cinema. From the two-season BBC sitcom Spaced to their Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, the triad’s lack of pretension and inherit desire to entertain has been a palpable component to all of their work. What goes from here is left to be seen, but here’s hoping the group continues their impressive run.