Sunday, April 20, 2014

"The World's End": a two-paragraph review

Starring the Laurel-and-Hardy-reboot comedy team of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, "The World's End" (TWE) is the capstone of what has become known as the "Three Flavors: Cornetto Trilogy," which began with the zombie-apocalypse comedy "Shaun of the Dead" and continued with the police comedy "Hot Fuzz." TWE is the story of man-child Gary King, a 40-something recovering drug addict who gets his old friends back together to relive, and surpass, a failed event from the group's teen years: the Golden Mile, which is a mile-long walk in the town of Newton Haven whose path connects the dots among twelve local pubs. The object of the game: drink a pint at each pub. The boys discover, however, that the town has been taken over by robotic simulations of the townspeople, and this turns out to be part of a much larger alien master plan to integrate our planet with the rest of the galaxy.

TWE was watchable, but proved not to be as funny as I'd expected it to be. It was hampered by the typically slipshod British approach to science fiction, which is rife with comic implausibilities, incoherent themes, and disconnected plot points (the Brits are the undisputed masters of the fantasy genre, but their SF is generally confusing, low-budget, and a bit pointless*). TWE also felt like a full-circle return to "Shaun of the Dead," with shambling robots in lieu of zombies. The film's tone was reminiscent of an 80s-era Douglas Adams throwback, what with Gary King's passionate-yet-nihilistic speech about Earth's necessary lameness and the human desire to be free. The tone of TWE also swayed drunkenly between madcap comedy and syrupy sentimentality, and I had trouble understanding some of the main characters' motivations. It also seemed that, by the end of the story, Gary King had learned absolutely nothing from his experience in Newton Haven—there was no character arc there. In all, TWE is not a film I'd race to see again.

*One bright exception is the UK science-fiction series "Misfits," which comes off as a gritty, sex-laden parody of the US series "Heroes." This series showed some real creativity as it explored all the jokey, naughty, "What if?" possibilities that come with having superpowers while lacking the wisdom to use them well.


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