Sunday, September 1, 2013

The World's End: A Slice Of Fried Gold

British people are better than us.  Let's just face it.  They're more polite, their accents are cooler, they go to pubs instead of bars, and they are much, much more funny than we are.  American humor is pretty crass and crude and out there.  Just look at the most successful comedy of this year: This Is The End.  It was hilarious!  But, it wasn't exactly the most clever movie of all time.  It was dumb, it was crude, and we all loved it.  British humor, on the other hand, is a lot more subtle.  It's a lot... well... smarter.  It's about clever wordplay rather and subtle callbacks rather than sight gags and shit jokes.  I'm not saying that any of the Apatow clan are unfunny... they're just the less intelligent version of their British counterparts.  I'm guilty of this too.  I wish I was able to write something as clever as The World's End.  But, alas, I was born in America.

When Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg wrote their first entry into the "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy", Shaun of the Dead, I didn't think much of it.  I thought it was a kinda funny spoof of the zombie movies that were getting a resurgence in popularity.  But, then I watched it again.  And it made me laugh more.  Because I understood more.  Then, I saw it again, and it was even funnier than the previous two viewings.  How was this happening? How was I able to see more funny, new jokes, new laughs in a movie I'd seen twice before?  It was genius and slowly becoming one of the best comedies I'd ever seen.  Then came Hot Fuzz.  I saw this movie six times in theaters when it came out.  Now, I thought it was funnier than Shaun after the first viewing, but I had a feeling it would have the same effect if I saw it a few more times.  Sure enough, after each viewing there were new jokes, new call backs, new subtle pick ups that I wouldn't have been able to spot after the first, even second, viewing.  Saying I like one of them more than the other is like a mother picking between her two children.  It all depends on the last one I watched.  I'll claim Hot Fuzz is funnier and more clever, but then I'll catch Shaun of the Dead on Comedy Central and remember how unbelievably hilarious it is, and that soon becomes funnier.  This is when I knew that nothing short of brilliance would come from their third entry to the trilogy, The World's End.

I saw the film over a week ago and was waiting to write the review hoping that I'd be able to see it a second time.  Unfortunately, I was not.  So, I'm certain there are numerous instances of missed jokes, call-backs that I was unaware of upon first viewing.  Nuances that I didn't catch because I wasn't looking.  But, after viewing The World's End for the first time, I'd say my reaction is in-between my initial reactions of the first two.  After Shaun I felt indifferent and after Fuzz I immediately wanted to see it again.  This was a combination of the two.  I did want to see it again, but it's because I'm privy to Edgar Wright's style of filmmaking and understand that I'm certainly not going to catch everything after one showing.  But, I also wasn't entirely won over by it, either.  It was different than what I was expecting, yet it was everything I wanted as well.  It's a strange viewing experience because you want to be able to laugh out loud every moment, but the humor is almost so subtle that it requires multiple viewings.

Simon Pegg plays troubled Gary King, a man who, with his five friends attempted an epic pub crawl of twelve pubs in a single night, twenty years prior.  Now, in present day, everyone has grown up and grown apart, except Gary.  He's still the obnoxious, a little disturbed, man with a twenty-year-old mentality.  He coaxes his five friends into trying the pub crawl again, this time not giving in until they reach the last bar: The World's End.  However, everything doesn't go as planned as their old town seems to be a little bit too quaint and perfect.  The people there act strange-- because they've been replaced by "robots" a la Stepford Wives  and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The only way for the five to survive the night is to act like they've noticed nothing and continue on their pub crawl and reach The World's End and avoid arousing suspicion.

It's a terrifically written and acted film.  Every one of the five brings to the table something different.  But, it's the (tarnished) friendship between Nick Frost and Pegg that drives the film.  In Shaun, we love watching the two best-friend fuck ups try to survive the zombie apocalypse.  In Fuzz we delighted in watching goofy oddball Frost teach uptight Pegg how to love and what friendship really means.  In this film, however, we await these moments to come because for a majority of the film the two are at each other's throats due to a past experience we're not made aware of until later.  It's a little unnerving watching the two best friends not get along, but their reunion near the end is much more satisfying than it would've been if they were besties from the beginning.

Be prepared, however, because the film isn't all laughs and fun.  There are some dark moments in the film, almost uncomfortably dark, but they're done with a significant purpose.  The film is about being caught in time and trying to hang on to lost youth.  Pegg refuses to grow up.  His entire life happiness is based on the pub crawl attempted with his best friends twenty years prior.  He's never been able to top that moment.  His life as an adult has been hard, rough, and nothing what he expected it to be, so he clings to the memory so tightly that it consumes him and he's unable to grow and mature from it.  While the others remember it as a fun experience, it's Pegg who's entire life motivation is to re-live that greatest moment ever.  The "robots" are frozen in time.  They don't age, they don't have to go through painful life experiences that most humans are exposed to.  They represent everything Pegg wants, which acts as a perfect foil to him and the friends.  It's an incredibly smart film, like most British comedies are, but there are also definite elements of saddness in reality.

Going into The World's End, understand that you're not going to be falling out of your chair, clutching your chest, laughing so hard you can't breathe, because it's not that type of comedy (though there are moments throughout that are damn hilarious).  It's a smart film that requires some brain activity and thinking.  It also, certainly, requires a follow-up viewing.  But, what I can say, is in the grand scheme of comedy in 2013, it is a stand-out film.  While This Is The End definitely got more laughs in the theater than The World's End, I can safely guarantee that down the line The World's End will have a lot better re-watch value.  It's the weakest of the three films, but that's in no way saying it is a weak film.  It's the perfect ending to the "Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy", but I'm hoping, and I'm sure everyone else is hoping, that this isn't the last collaboration between three of England's funniest people: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.