Good buzz over ‘The World’s End’ is well deserved

The World’s End/2013/Focus Features/109 min.

A comedy with an apocalyptic slant is required viewing here at FNB and, given that this one is made by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, “The World’s End” is a must-see for anyone who likes a good laugh and a glass of beer with a twist of Brit.

Following their hits “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Hot Fuzz (2007), I had high hopes for their latest collaboration (Wright directed and co-wrote with Pegg). And, despite Pegg and Frost’s misfire with “Paul” (2011), the trio delivers nicely here.

It’s a simple premise: Five boyhood friends reluctantly reunite in their hometown for a pub crawl at the same spots they frequented 20 years before – the final stop is the aptly named The World’s End. Pegg plays Gary King, the cocky party-hardy dude, short on cash and long on looking back because his best days are behind him.

His friends, on the other hand, have moved on with their lives and assumed the usual responsibilities, i.e. jobs and families. Gary manages to get Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) on board with the binge quest fairly quickly. It’s more work to convince Andy (Frost), now a well dressed, teetotalling lawyer as serious as he is successful.

Pints are poured and tension between the estranged friends bubbles up, just as a creamy head tops a draft of Guinness. But bigger trouble appears when “the five musketeers” discover that their sleepy small town has been overrun by a breed of mutants, a la “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and that the future of humanity now rests on their soused shoulders.

As was the case with “Shaun of the Dead,” a smart script and strong characterizations allow the leads to deftly balance comedy and drama. And it’s a refreshing treat to see Frost playing a stuffy sourpuss to Pegg’s puerile doofus. Also spot on: Rosamund Pike as Samantha, Steven’s smart and sexy unrequited love.

“The World’s End” skillfully mixes broad, knockabout humor with sharp observation (playing with and puncturing British stereotypes) and quick wit. “I haven’t had a drink in 15 years,” says Andy, to which Gary replies, “You must be thirsty!”

“The World’s End” opens nationwide today.

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