If Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright ever decide to quit acting, directing and writing, they should look into starting a magic act. The two are masters of the misdirection.
Their latest work, "The World's End," starts out as a rather mundane story of a group of aging buddies who return to their hometown to complete a quest that they failed in 1990: to drink their way through 12 pubs. Four of the friends have normal lives. Only the self-proclaimed leader of the group, Gary King (Pegg), is hanging on to his glory days.
The first 30 minutes of the film is a tedious trip down memory lane as King acts like he's still the top dog in town and the rest of his mates follow him. That's when the movie makes a 90-degree turn. The bland buddy comedy turns into a mixture of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Alien" and "Barfly." The comedy gets cranked up as the night of drinking turns into a comedic battle for survival.
This change of direction shouldn't come as a surprise since the team used the same tactic in "Hot Fuzz," turning the cop movie into a supernatural tale. Just as with that film, there are no hints such a change is coming and the surprise lifts the movie out of its melancholy funk into a fun adventure.
Pegg is joined by his comedy sidekick, Nick Frost, who proves that he can handle physical humor with ease. He is the perfect match for Pegg, whose humor can be a little zealous at times. Together, they give the humor — from fun jabs at nostalgia to a slapstick battle to save the world — a smooth and enjoyable pace.
Even Wright's pacing matches the two distinct film styles. He seems in no hurry to move the action along as King goes about "getting the band back together." Once the movie takes its change of direction, the tempo picks up so much there's little chance to catch your breath.
The script by Pegg and Wright may have all the earmarks of being a deep commentary on the way technology is stripping away humanity. But that's going way too deep. It's a movie with only one objective: deliver as many surprise laughs as possible.
The pub crawl comedy delivers so many giggles that glasses should be raised to the brilliance of Pegg and Wright. This is the funniest film you will never see coming.
"The World's End," rated R for language, sexual material. Stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike. Directed by Edgar Wright. Running time: 109 minutes. Grade: A-
Theaters and times
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.