RATING: 3 stars (out of 4)
Well, that sequel to The Hangover everyone was really looking forward to has finally made it to theaters. It’s not the terrible Hangover Part III, though. It’s called The World’s End, and it’s got all those guys from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
The British wunderboy filmmaking team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are here to show us ‘Mericans how to do drunken, depressed manchild comedy just right. It takes dialogue as thick as blood pudding, chemistry between the actors that makes you think they’d still be hanging out if not for the exorbitant paychecks, and a fair share of judo-chopping, bossy robotic invaders.
Most importantly, the filmmakers realize that the more pathetic their characters are, the funnier they’re capable of being. And it’s hard to get more pathetic than Pegg’s character, Gary. A middle-aged, friendless alcoholic who can’t hold a job, even his therapy group can’t stand to be around him. Desperate to rekindle the magic of his glory days, he rounds up his old crew of school buddies — all who are about as eager to see him as Taylor Swift’s exes are to see her — and manipulates them into finishing a pub crawl they first attempted after graduation.
The goal: Visit 12 pubs in 12 nights, downing a pint at each one. Never mind that the plan will surely end up in alcohol poisoning, or that one of the guys, Andrew (Nick Frost), is a highly respected professional who has quit drinking due to a personal catastrophe. To Gary, it’s all about Gary, so he rounds up Andy, Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine) to go on the ill-advised drinking binge, convinced that — despite how successful and seemingly mature they all are — they must have a gaping hole inside that can only be filled by tons and tons of cheap booze from their old hometown.
There’s a story at work, and a plot driven by a robotic menace the guys must band together to overcome, but what the movie is really about is the way the guys interact. Pegg and his pals are the sort that can be funny just by the way they look at each other, or by uttering inside jokes, and especially by engaging in high-caliber ball-breaking. There’s also some emotional, dark-night-of-the-soul stuff at play, which helps ground the movie, keeping it from becoming cartoonish slapstick.
You can usually tell a good comedy when all you need is the main characters sitting around a table, and that’s exactly what much of this movie ends up being. Sure, for variety’s sake the setting switches to the street or a bar bathroom, but it’s always the banter that’s the real star of the show.
Many a promising comedy, though, has been ruined by a stubborn adherence to its stupid plot. And although the robo-apocalyptic plot that shapes The World’s End is plenty stupid, it rarely detracts from the main event. I don’t want to oversell the movie. It’s definitely no Shaun of the Dead, but it does make you laugh, and laugh hard. There’s not much more you can ask from a movie like this. It’s a rare drinking comedy that doesn’t require you to be drunk to enjoy it.
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike and Eddie Marsan. Written by Pegg and Edgar Wright. Directed by Wright. 109 minutes. Rated R.