NEW YORK (CNS) — Combine a British pub crawl, a rueful reflection on the conformity of adult life and an episode of the long-running BBC television series “Doctor Who,” and you get “The World’s End” (Focus).
Occasionally coarse but never vulgar, it’s the rare film with a thesis. Plus, there are all these cool robots and an apocalyptic theme. The five main characters may be schlubs, but they can — by-gosh — save humanity from a cosmic threat when they have to.
“The World’s End” follows “Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Hot Fuzz” (2007) in what’s known as director Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, so named for its occasional references to the U.K. ice cream treat. As such, its core appeal is to Wright’s fan base. Mature adults can take this on as a single — as long as they understand that all Cornetto references are to be cheered.
Despite being on the cusp of his 40s, Gary King (Simon Pegg) has never assimilated into adulthood. Trapped in alcoholism, cigarettes and suicidal despair, he’s perpetually seeking ways to break free.
His latest notion is to recruit childhood friends Andy (Nick Frost) Oliver (Martin Freeman) Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) to re-create “The Golden Mile,” a boozy traverse of a dozen pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. They had set themselves this same challenge at the time of their high school graduation, back in 1990, but couldn’t finish it.
The men renew old bonds — and resentments — and deal with appearances by Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), a former romantic partner of both Gary and Steven.
The realistic premise crashes early on in the gents’ loo, when they’re brawling not with thuggish local youths, but with very durable robots. The androids have been placed on this planet by some sinister force to replicate human DNA and — like the pod people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) — they walk around like duller versions of humanity.
Toward the end, Gary shouts, “We are the human race and we don’t like being told what to do!”
Wright, who co-wrote the screenplay with Pegg, doesn’t have a lot of new ideas to toss out there. But the movie does have a journey of discovery that would likely have satisfied Aristotle and intelligent discussions of existential angst, at least when the guys aren’t too busy ripping the heads off robots.
The film contains some physical violence, two scenes of drug use, references to premarital sex, a few uses of profanity and considerable crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.