We all have a friend like Gary King. We left high school, we went to college, we got jobs, we got married, and the Gary King in our lives… didn’t. Maybe he calls himself a free spirit, maybe he’s just waiting for that letter from a publisher or record label or film studio, but we know him, he’s in our lives, and he’s just appealing enough to make you want to do something that, intellectually, you know is stupid. And that’s where the genius of The World’s End lies; evoking, so perfectly, a milestone we all know so well.
The basic plot of the movie is that Gary gets his four friends together to complete the Golden Mile, a pub crawl back where they grew up. Along the way, they discover the town has been infiltrated by robots, and the name of the World’s End pub, the last leg in the journey, might just be true in more ways than one.
It’s been described, a lot, as “Doctor Who meets The Big Chill“, but that’s not entirely accurate and more than a little unfair. Simon Pegg hands in a superb performance here as Gary, who, his friends rapidly realize, hasn’t grown out of his self-centered, dickish tendencies. The great thing about the rest of the group, played by Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, and Paddy Considine, is that they pretty quickly realize that what’s a minor nostalgic trip for them and a chance to reunite with friend is a much bigger deal to Gary.
The movie never loses sight of what a massive dick Gary is while allowing that on some level, even Gary knows he’s a loser. There’s never a real redemption for Gary; a few moments of sadness, perhaps, but he’s still, well, a dick. And then, of course, the robots come in.
That’s the thing: This is also a fully fleshed, fully realized science fiction movie. The guys don’t go sprinting out of town when they first realize what’s happened because they can’t; the robots might catch on. And it’s also actually quite a peppy action movie as well: Anybody who saw Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim knows that Edgar Wright is a fairly sharp action director on top of his other skills, and it comes into play quite a lot here, whether he’s paying tribute to Jackie Chan movies or going for a gross-out gag while also impressing you with how a bunch of middle-aged British comedians can move.
It’s hard to blend genres, and doing it once or twice is no guarantee of pulling it off. But here Wright does it with alacrity. It helps that this movie is well-paced; there’s laughs and horror in equal measure. Wright never gets wrapped up in what a clever boy he is, or tries for something that doesn’t work.
In short, it’s not just the funniest movie of the summer; it’s the best science fiction movie, and it’s got a fair shot at the best movie of the summer, period. Don’t miss it.