It's all fun and games until "The World's End" turns out to be about the world's end. Or the end of the world as five British mates have known it.
Until then, it comically chugs along with a band of not always merry men on a pub crawl that is part high school reunion, part cautionary tale about nostalgia and part apocalyptic sci-fi battle.
3 stars = Good
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan.
R for pervasive language including sexual references.
Director and co-writer Edgar Wright reunites with actors Simon Pegg (who shares screenplay credit) and Nick Frost from "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" and layers in Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike for good measure.
The men were just lads fresh from school and on top of the world in June 1990 when they embarked on a heroic quest to visit 12 historic pubs and quaff a pint at each. They failed, moved on and apart, and grew up, except for troubled Gary (Mr. Pegg), still waxing nostalgic about those glory days.
He rounds up the old gang, although not without some difficulty and resistance. Corporate lawyer Andy (Mr. Frost), for instance, hasn't had a drink in 16 years and initially wants no part of "The Golden Mile" marathon or onetime best friend Gary for reasons later made clear.
When Gary says, "We are here to get annihilated," he has no idea how true that might be when it turns out something very strange is happening in the suburban U.K. town of Newton Haven. And it's not just the "Starbuckization" of the pubs but aliens in familiar yet freaky form.
"The World's End" starts off fast, fun, funny and quippy -- Mr. Pegg's Gary is brilliantly bonkers and the others play well off and with him -- and then becomes surprisingly heavy and serious.
Nothing wrong with taking a step back and examining the fate of mankind, but the movie seems to take a sudden, sharp turn down a bumpy back road that leads to an unexpected place.
The groundwork is laid for it, and it gives the movie some unexpected heft, although I would have settled for something more shallow: bad boys looking to get a buzz on and deciding if you really can or should go home again.