With “The Hangover” franchise and Judd Apatow’s prodigious output making middle-aged-buddy movies all the rage, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright jump in with a refreshing take on the genre.
Pegg portrays a 40ish man-child named Gary King who has avoided making any meaningful changes since his early 20s. He still wears the same attire, has no identifiable job and drives a 22-year-old car that spews black smoke but, according to Gary, is “the best $300 I ever spent.”
Gary voices one regret. Two decades earlier he and his four buddies, played by Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, failed to complete the “golden mile” — an infamous 12-pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven.
During the intervening years Gary’s friends married and/or buckled down to their careers, so it’s surprising that, although several of the gang are now members of unnamed 12-step programs, Gary is able to get fellows to make one last try at reaching Newton Haven’s pub number 12, aka “The World’s End.”
Their reunion is nearly derailed by Gary’s insistence that having fun beats growing up. His friends both love and hate Gary, whose tour through their supposedly nostalgic past recalls the reprehensible behavior (largely Gary’s) that drove them apart.
Past events take center stage when Gary’s old flame Sam (Rosamund Pike), who is also pub-crawl-pal Oliver’s sister, arrives for a reunion of her own with her gal pals. Slowly, Gary realizes that his youthful drunken revelry messed up Sam’s love life, as well as that of his drinking buddy Steven (Paddy Considine), who did and does return Sam’s affections.
Just as the consequences of his behavior dawn on Gary, the boys discover Newton Haven is overrun by robots that look exactly like people they once knew but are much more politically correct. The same goes for their beloved pubs, which have traded in their unique character for corporate makeovers, rendering them virtually indistinguishable from one another.
The action, which relies less on special effects and more on ludicrous twists and comic dialog, examines the consequences of over regulating social behavior. Thankfully the film concludes that the bad behavior exhibited by Gary and his friends should not be banned by legislation or undue pressure to be politically correct. Being free means allowing individuals the right to make bad choices.