Pawns of the dead

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AP
Laurie Sparham
From left, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan play reunited school chums in “The World’s End.”

The apocalypse never arrives in The World’s End, a flighty new horror spoof from the team leader in that specialized genre. As usual, and as expected, much looks familiar, but the biggest surprise comes with how little the creators do this time with their admittedly slight material.

Edgar Wright again directs star Simon Pegg, his writing partner, just as in their earlier Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two inspired comedies filled with wit and inventiveness. In World’s End, however, the seams start to show, revealing a team finally struggling to break new ground with overly familiar material.

The initial setup centers around Gary King (Pegg), a one-time inhabitant of the English village Newton Haven. Some 20 years after a failed pub crawl with four of his high school mates (to conclude at the pub called The World’s End), the adult King reassembles his now reluctant pals (Pegg-Wright regular Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman) in an attempt to recreate the fateful night that marked the end of their youth.

But now, the four have matured, leaving King as a stunted, obnoxious adolescent who exudes an offensive immaturity. This early part drags on so long, it begins to look like the comedy team has misguidedly tried its hand at social satire, with the result being a definite loss of the funny.

Instead, World’s End then goes the only place it can go: into another horror spoof. Director Wright so overprepares his audience, and Pegg so overplays King’s abrasive behavior, that the transformation comes as a relief.

The comedy does not take off instantly as might be expected, but it elevates itself simply by leaving King’s boorishness.

As to what happens next, it is enough to say that the village and the people in it are not the same as they were 20 years previous. The group, filled out with a fine cast and aided by Rosamund Pike, has a series of horrific encounters that make up the last part of the film.

The wit never soars along with the flowing blue blood and the flying bodies, but the latter part abandons the serious and somber and returns to the more comfortable and familiar territory of complete silliness.

MOVIE RATING

The World’s End

** 1/2

Rated R, 109 minutes.

Opens Friday.


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