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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: The World’s End

THE WORLD’S END (Three and a Half Stars)

U. S.: Edgar Wright, 2013


I’ve let The World’s End go unremarked—so far—even though this cheerfully outrageous new comedy by Edgar WrightSimon Pegg and Nick Frost (all of Shaun of the Dead) is one of my favorite movies so far this year—and judging by the reviews, the favorite of lots of other critics (and audiences) too.

The movie deserves its accolades. It’s a hilarious, robustly imaginative and very smart blend of buddy-buddy dramedy, shrewd roughhouse British comedy and social satire and cinema homage (this time to Don Siegel and screenwriter Daniel Mainwarings paranoid s.f. classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Of that kind and mixture of picture, I’d say it’s been done almost perfectly. Certainly, this high-octane show has among the funnier ideas, zestier performances and better, more corrosive dialogue of any movie, British, American or whatever, that’s been out recently. If you’ve missed it and are any kind of a fan of Ealing Studios, Goon Show, Beyond the Fringe or Monty Python-style humor, well, all I can say is “Shame on you.”

Like Shaun of the Dead (zombies) and that other Wright-Pegg-Frost parody Hot Fuzz (cop-crime), The World‘s End mixes biting British social comedy with American genre movie parody—and it hits the spot on both levels. The plot is reminiscent of the drunk buddies comedy The Hangover (the first one), and the Rogen and Company pop apocalypse farce This is the End. But it’s better than either, and funnier.

The acting is spot f—ing on. Pegg shines as the dissipated but still energetic and full of himself ex-teenage campus lord and Hootmeister Gary King—who once was the ruler of high school revels and is now an aging, dissolute semi-wreck. He gathers together his four ex-high school buddy-followers Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman), Peter Page (the splendid Eddie Marsan) and his now estranged once-best chummerino Andy Knightley (Frost, natch), all acting aces, to repeat and this time complete their epic school’s-end pub-crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven—a tour of pubs and pint-swills, finishing at the appropriately named World’s End.

Gary, in the decades since he ruled the roost, and pleasured the ladies and bossed his wild bunch, has become a demonic, dissolute motormouth, still living in the past and its old rotten glories. His four one-time acolytes, however, have eased into comfortable white-collar lives, and his ex-right hand chap Andy has become a teetotaler, alienated completely from his old pal. The tamed quartet is uncomfortable; Gary is in his boozy element, keeps dragging them onward.

Along their alcoholic way, they meet an old teacher (Pierce Brosnan), old nemeses and Sam (the splendiferous Rosamund Pike), an old flame of both Gary and Steven. As the booze flows, we begin to notice something funny about these pubs—Starbuckized pubs you might call them. But Gary is such a loudmouth and his chums are so magnificently uneasy that we don’t read between the lines… yet.

At first The World’s End seems like a rowdier, more roistering version of a Mike Leigh-style social drama-comedy or a more socially minded variant on a Yank bromantic hellraiser comedy. Then it takes a wild curve into Body Snatcher genre movie-land.  But, crazy as it all gets, the emotional richness of the first scenes keeps feeding into the later, more fantastic plot twists. Some people may prefer the first parts, some the later stuff. I liked it all.

Director-writer Wright and his two stars, Pegg and Frost, and their friends, Considine, Freeman and Marsan keep the show popping and sizzling all the way. The central trio have become one of the more reliable purveyor teams of really good, really smart movie comedy around—British to a T, with a refreshing blast of American comic inebriation, and funny beyond words. Now, let’s all ‘ave a pint, and get scussed and soused on the way to the Apocalypse.


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One Response to “Wilmington on Movies: The World’s End”

  1. manliano says:

    I really feel like I’m missing the party on this one, because I disdained this film. As a huge fan of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and more specifically, ‘Hot Fuzz’, I was beyond disappointed.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon