The World's End (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet) (2013)

Actors: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan
Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Producers: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Format: Color, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
Subtitles: Spanish
Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
Region: All Regions
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Universal Studios
DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013




What makes The World's End such a brilliant addition to Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy? For starters, it addresses the one part of genre entertainment thus far missing. Shaun of the Dead handled horror movies, Hot Fuzz did over-the-top action spectacle, but we hadn't yet seen science fiction given Wright's uproarious treatment. An Invasion of the Body Snatchers parody feels just about right, capturing paranoia and fears of conformity while indulging in the kind of puckish mischief suited to doughy protagonists running for their lives. That's what we paid for with this movie, and that's what we get in spades.

But the real genius of the film -- that extra touch that elevates it to the level of an instant classic -- is the way he ties it in to far more ordinary trials and travails. We'd seen hints of it in earlier films: the heroes' general fecklessness in Shaun, for example, or their tendency to confuse fictional bombast for real life in Hot Fuzz. But here, he and co-conspirator Simon Pegg tie it firmly into the exotic elements: making it feel like a more naturalistic part of the story and scoring some very keen points in the process.

Specifically, they're talking about high school: that awkward age that most of us would like to forget but which leaves us with a combination of heartfelt nostalgia and lingering psychological scars that define us as adults. We always see part of it with rose-colored glasses: the good parts, where we goofed off with our buddies and reveled in our first real taste of grown-up pleasures. The rest we tried to forget, and while most of us moved on into a more serious mindset, we inevitably buried some of the good stuff along with the pain.

That is of course, unless you're one of the Gary Kings (Pegg) of the world: the ones for whom high school was the greatest time of their life and who would do anything to go back. We're not talking about the jocks or the homecoming queens, but the rebels without a cause. The ones who quoted philosophy books they never read and used elaborate excuses about fighting conformity as an excuse to ditch class and go smoke in back of the 7-Eleven. They often gave the rest of us hope: a precious way to remind us that it was okay to color outside the lines. But we also knew, instinctively, that these celebrated bad boys were going to have a very rough time of it once real adulthood got a hold of them.

So it is with King, former Lord of the Misfits who graduated to become a first-rate screw-up. At the apex of his reign, he and his friends attempted an epic pub crawl in the 12 famous bars of their hometown, only to be turned back by… well, by the same things that turn back anyone who's consumed enough alcohol to kill most forms of livestock. 20 years later, he vows to complete the crawl, dragging his respectable and semi-willing friends along for the ride.

All of that would have been good enough, fueled by Pegg's keen understanding of his character's pathos and the pinpoint accuracy with which he and Wright nail the experiences of forty-somethings bidding sad farewell to their youth. But then the twist comes, as King's crew learns that their hometown has been taken over by pod people from outer space. Their nostalgic drinking game quickly becomes a battle for survival, with the fate of the world in the balance.

It's amazing how well the two halves of the equation work, bound together by Wright's usual comedic touch, but finding common threads in surprising ways. Most of us suspected that the soulless drones in our home town were actually from outer space, after all, and what is an apocalyptic invader if not a schoolyard bully in jumped-up form? The World's End realizes those concepts so beautifully because it understands every corner of them, and gives each facet equal attention so that they feel like a natural fit.

That brings the Cornetto trilogy to a more than fitting conclusion, brightening a fairly benighted year at the movies while reminding us that some filmmakers are still deeply in touch with the experiences of their intended audiences. Wright and Pegg were always of our tribe, of that we have no doubt. The joy and pain they show us here -- filtered through a brilliantly absurd lens, but still on full display -- haven't been dulled by their Hollywood success. Nor have the affectionate jabs that gave these two their street cred. Judging by this effort, said cred is here to stay for a good long time.

THE DISC: Solid image and sound quality are married to a decent (though not mindblowing) set of extras.

WORTH IT? Beyond a doubt. Fans know what they're in for here and newcomers should be enchanted by the mixture of Gen-X angst and potent sci-fi satire that it offers in spades.

RECOMMENDATION: This admirable conclusion to the Cornetto trilogy doesn't quite make the list of the year's best discs, but its casual brilliance means that no science fiction lover should let it pass by.

- Rob Vaux



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