The best comedy of last year is also the most relatable. That’s quite a feat for a movie about extra-terrestrial robots that turn the citizens of a small English village into pod people. However, THE WORLD’S END is much, much more than a sci-fi parody, and if it had stopped there, it would have been just fine. There’s a tenderness at play that elevates the film, apparent in the rich characterization of its lead, Gary King (Simon Pegg), a recovering drug addict who wants one more chance to finish a pub crawl with his buddies that began 20 years ago. While his friends have all moved on to bigger and better things, Gary wants nothing more than to live blissfully in the past. The thematic connection between Gary’s self-delusion and the robot’s mind-control methods is subtle and remarkable. It deepens the material, the same way the zombies in SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2007) seemed not much worse than your average go-nowhere bloke.
Wright deserves much of the credit. This might be one of the best-looking comedies in a long while. The director is an engaged visual stylist (his SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is an underrated gem), and here his movie looks and behaves like a paranoia-fueled sci-fi shocker, with sudden bursts of violence and special effects that punctuate the more verbal scenes between the aging lads. Those scenes, which eventually reveal four friends who realize they need to help their alcoholic friend Gary, are touching and hilarious. It doesn’t hurt to throw in some righteous robot dismemberment to bring a group closer together.
A strong streak of sympathy and humanity has always run throughout the collaborations between Wright, actor/co-writer Pegg, and co-star Nick Frost. Their unofficially dubbed “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” which began with SHAUN OF THE DEAD and continued with HOT FUZZ (2007), has always combined an invested genre homage (zombie-horror in SHAUN, cop movies in FUZZ, and now 70’s-style sci-fi in END) with a poignant character farce that wouldn’t be out of place in a more “respectable” Brit-com from someone like Richard Curtis or Michael Winterbottom. Then again, those guys would never take robots this seriously.
THE WORLD’S END
Sunday, February 9th – 4:45pm & 9:00pm
Brattle Theatre – (Some of) the Best of 2013
40 Brattle St. Cambridge, MA 02138
General admission $10