n the wild-ride concoction that is The World’s End, the dizzy art of the macho pub crawl goes to new, bizarre lengths. Pints, seen poured in loving close-up shots, are consumed in mass quantities; midlife men seek to complete adolescent scores in the old hometown, finding they can’t quite go home again; and a woozy pub crawl yields to epic barroom brawls. Heads roll. Literally. And it’s all good, goofy post-postmodern fun.
Strange and sometimes liberating things can happen when science-fiction dynamics inject themselves into earthly party-time comedy contexts, as in this summer’s This is the End, an end-of-the-world scenario spiked with comical celebrity excess, or in Tim Burton’s classic Mars Attacks, where alien invader cheesiness meets carbonated comic invention.
Cowriter Simon Pegg, with his edgy-witted hedonist charm in tow, himself plays the chief mischief maker and project coordinator, a protracted teenager (oh, and alcoholic), who gathers his mates, now settled into their bourgeois “adult” lives, to attend to adolescent business left unfinished: completing the round of pubs in the “Golden Mile” of their old small town, finishing off, fittingly, with the pub known as “The World’s End.” Alas, things are not so staid and familiar as they remembered in the old town. Even the beloved old hip teacher (Pierce Brosnan) has a new DNA perspective. Therein begins the sci-fi-comic romp factor.
In a strange way, director Edgar Wright’s finale to his Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz over the past decade) sates our appetite for the satirical over-the-topness of previous films, while also arriving in theaters as a refreshing, saltier, and zanier end to this summer’s crop of decent rite-of-passage films (Kings of Summer, The Way Way Back, The Spectacular Now). Of course, The World’s End takes a much more circuitous and satire-lined route to the rite-of-passage milieu. There are genuinely emotional moments and self-realization involved, but mostly, the film is about a deliciously gonzo passage into dimensions of sight, sound, and mind gag.