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updated: 8/22/2013 2:17 PM

Nostalgia a killer for guys at 'World's End'

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  • Gary (co-writer Simon Pegg), center, and two pals get much more than they anticipated while attempting to recreate their college pub crawl in "The World's End."

      Gary (co-writer Simon Pegg), center, and two pals get much more than they anticipated while attempting to recreate their college pub crawl in "The World's End."

  • Video: "The World's End" trailer

 
 

Want another reason why movie marketers and their lethal trailers constitute the No. 1 menace to viewers' total enjoyment of modern motion pictures?

Here it is.

I successfully avoided knowing anything about "The World's End" outside of that Edgar Wright reteams with his "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in a comedy about middle-aged blokes who try to recreate the "pub crawl" they attempted in college.

I was totally and pleasantly dumbfounded about halfway through when the movie takes a fiendishly sharp genre turn I never saw coming.

This turn astonished and dazzled me, and it's a pleasure that has been denied most everyone else because the party-pooping Focus Features trailers (plus most of the movie reviews already released) ruin the twist.

So I'm serving official notice that if you haven't succumbed to movie TMI about "World's End," stop reading now, go see this smart and hilarious comedy about the double-edged sword called nostalgia, and read my review later.

OK? OK.

Pegg plays Gary King, a forty-something Peter Pan obsessed with reuniting his "five Musketeers" buddies to finish "The Golden Mile," a 12-tavern pub crawl they failed to complete in college.

Unlike financially strapped partygoer Gary, his BFFs have grown up to become responsible adults.

Divorced Steven (Paddy Considine) works in construction. Penny-pinching real estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman) loves his Bluetooth technology. Peter (Eddie Marsan) unhappily works at his dad's car dealership.

Not one of them agrees to go with Gary unless attorney Andrew (Frost) goes along. But he harbors angry, unfinished business with Gary. Plus, he's now on the wagon.

Glib Gary's penchant for manipulation wins out, of course, setting the five old pals on a reunion road trip so comically painful, "The World's End" could have stopped at being a British "Big Chill" and still been quite good.

Nope. Wright, directing from his paranoia-steeped science-fiction-savvy screenplay cowritten with Pegg, transforms "World's End" into a delightfully shrewd valentine to classic 1950s alien films, a sort of android redo of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Even when faced with something more life-threatening than a bad hangover, Gary leads his surviving pals on their pub crawl, danger be darned! These guys are too obsessed to abandon their goal, and that actually makes them endearingly real.

Dumb, but real.

Rosamund Pike pops in as Samantha, thankfully breaking up the all-guys club as one of Gary's intended college conquests, now, as it turns out, with Stephen as a suitor.

Bill Pope photographs "World's End" in glorious widescreen images, using old-fashioned 35 mm. filmstock for its 1950s vintage texture.

The result marks a tighter, funnier and more empathetic work than "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead," even though the true villain of this movie -- the Focus Features marketing department -- is never brought to justice.

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