You can’t go home again – or if you do, you’ll find your old bedroom is now your parents’ TV room, a giant Panera Bread squats in what was the picturesque town center, and the denizens of downtown all look like 3-D printouts generated from modeling software at L.L. Bean and J.Crew.
Oh wait, that’s what happens when I go home. When Gary King, the alcoholic antihero of Edgar Wright’s new sci-fi comedy “The World’s End,” gets the old gang back together for a do-over of the marathon pub crawl they attempted at age 19, something a wee bit more apocalyptic is in store. Here’s a hint, coyly tucked into Gary’s declaration in the postcard-pretty English town of Newton Haven: “We are here to get annihilated!”
Twenty years on, Gary (played by Simon Pegg) remains a Jack the lad — but only in his mind. Walking slo-mo down the street, feeling super-cool (Suede’s “So Young” glides on the soundtrack), Gary is still wearing the long overcoat that marked him out in high school as the leader of the pack, still sporting that Sisters of Mercy T-shirt with — can it be? — goth-style thumb holes cut out of the sleeves. Aviator sunglasses? Still there, now covering some desperately-earned wrinkles. Egyptian Eye of Horus pendant? This guy has probably slept with it on for years.
Four old chums flank Gary, just as they used to, coaxed into coming with him on this trip to their hometown out of a mix of curiosity and pity. As they cross a park, five teens in hoodies and sullen expressions walk by — their younger selves. And Gary, barely containing his glee, salutes them as if to say, “We’re all rebels, ain’t we, boys?”
It’s just pathetic, and absurdly funny. And that shot has the seeds of the whole film in it.
Those same teens turn up — gosh, they’re actually alien robot bodysnatchers — in a swirling pub brawl that jolts the film into high gear, ends in an alien bloodbath (it looks like blue ink), and may ultimately alter the fate of mankind. See what happens when you try to relive your glory days?
“We were interested in nostalgia being almost like a villain in the film,” Pegg told the Globe recently, describing a primary theme of “The World’s End,” which he co-wrote with Wright.
For lovers of Wright, Pegg, and costar Nick Frost, that theme may be bittersweet. “The World’s End” puts a cap on the trio’s “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy, following the cult favorites “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Fans may want to keep on basking in their Brit-bromance chemistry, quick quips, and profuse film-geek allusions, but these three seem ready to move on.
As for everyone else...
Before you think of pulling that guitar out of the basement and rounding up your old bandmates — definitely before you look up your high school fling on Facebook — see this film and laugh. And beware.