Before the plot takes an outrageous science fiction turn, writer and actor Simon Pegg had a compelling character on his hands in “The World’s End,” an action comedy that manages to stay funny despite being completely derivative, even from Pegg’s earlier breakthrough film, “Shaun of the Dead” and more recent films like “This is the End.” Like that similarly named and themed comedy, this story concerns a bunch of ridiculous men who, amidst a night of debauchery, face down the apocalypse.

Simon Pegg stars in “The World’s End” as Gary King, a  depressed adult confronting the approach of middle age.

Simon Pegg stars in “The World’s End” as Gary King, a
depressed adult confronting the approach of middle age.

Pegg plays Gary King, a depressed adult confronting the approach of middle age with little to show in the way of accomplishment. He is obsessed with the glory days of his youth, when he ran with a pack of best pals in a small town, and traces his decline back to one fateful night when they all tried and failed to complete an epic pub crawl. At the lowest point in his life, Gary decides to reunite his old gang and finish what they started.

All of the men have moved on with their lives except for Gary, and his reappearance in their lives – clad in the same boots and trench coat he sported in the 1990s – is met with universal unease. Nevertheless, every one of them accepts his invitation to leave London for their small hometown and have a night out.

This was an amusing and interesting group of friends but Pegg portrayed a deeper hurt, a problem that could have been explored in the rest of the movie. Things didn’t go in that direction, however. Right when emotions are about to be revealed, Gary gets into a fight in the men’s room, and discovers that some of the locals are humanoid robots filled with blue goo. Scenes of wild, hand to hand combat ensue, and someone created a really interesting and weird looking way for these robot people to move.

The movie was crazy and amusing and all that but, especially since it concerns a group of people trying to make it to a pub amidst an inhuman invasion, which is the exact plot of “Shaun of the Dead” starring all the same people, I would have probably preferred to watch the bittersweet comedy they set up in the film’s beginning. Like Gary’s life, a promising beginning gave way to fun but meaningless chaos.