Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home -- but the movie The World's End suggests that you can go back, get drunk, and battle identity-stealing robots.  Or something.  This movie is a comedy that's both funny and wildly inconsistent.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is the textbook definition of an aging loser focused on reliving his youth.  The movie opens with Gary recounting how, on graduation from high school in 1990, he and four friends tried to complete the "epic" Golden Mile: drinking a pint at each of twelve pubs in their sleepy little town of Newton Haven, with the last one being the World's End.  When Gary realizes they never actually finished the Golden Mile, he decides to get his buddies together to try again.  Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) all have grown-up jobs and families, plus they don't like Gary much; something Gary did led Andy to quit drinking.  But Gary pleads, lies, and fast-talks the guys to meeting him back in their old town to try the Golden Mile again.  They're also joined, off and on, by Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Steven has a crush on and Gary had a brief fling with.

The trip down the Golden Mile starts as expected, with Gary being a jackass constantly and the others going along (even if Andy only drinks tap water).  But a run-in with some teens in the men's room reveals that some, perhaps many, of the townspeople have been replaced with robots (called "Blanks") filled with blue liquid who attack Gary and his buddies with outstretched hands.  The friends don't know how far the conspiracy goes -- or who are Blanks and who are townspeople going along with them -- but Gary persuades the others that they have to finish the Golden Mile to avoid attracting attention.  And so there's lots of drinking, with frequent robot battles and bits of philosophy -- with the ultimate goal of the World's End.

The World's End is pretty silly, and in some ways quite clever.  Pegg makes Gary a pretty unlikable character, someone who resolutely refuses to grow up -- he even has his car from 1990, complete with the same mix tape that was in it them -- and who gets his friends to go along with him by simply talking and talking until they give in.  There are also jabs at the small towns, from the sameness of the local pubs to the small-town paranoia of outsiders; and the supporting cast all have plenty of comic moments.  But the attempt to switch from a simple drinking comedy to nature of humanity feels like tacking on some unnecessary gravitas to a goofy film.  The movie is also conveniently inconsistent when it comes to the Blanks -- at times the fight like martial arts masters, at other times the guys can beat up dozens of them -- and the film completely glosses over the pretty horrible fate of those who are replaced.  The World's End is a funny movie that would have benefited from more consistency in both its story and its universe.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch


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