Back in 2004, Edgar Wright’s brilliantly subversive zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead, introduced American audiences to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. On screen the British Mutt-and-Jeff duo (who teamed up again with Wright for 2007’s Hot Fuzz) had the spark-spraying chemistry of two best mates who wasted their youth finishing each other’s sentences at the local pub. Now they’ve all reunited for their third — and best — collaboration, The World’s End. As in their previous comedies, Pegg and Frost play men who refuse to stop acting like boys. But these pint-swilling Peter Pans also know how to work the heart and the brain for belly laughs.
Pegg stars as Gary, a pathetic screwup still living in the past who cons his four closest childhood pals (Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan) into returning to their quaint hometown after 20-odd years to reenact what he calls the best night of his life: an Odyssean 12-pub crawl ending at a watering hole named the World’s End. Pegg’s Gary is a selfish cad, not to mention a raging alcoholic, but Wright’s film throws in a jarringly apocalyptic sci-fi twist about the hamlet’s nonhuman denizens that gives him — and his stuck-in-a-rut buddies — a hilarious opportunity for midlife redemption. Wright doesn’t quite stick the landing: The finale is a little too shaggy and silly. But what do you expect after a dozen beers? B+