Maybe you knew this already, being the sophisticated Almanac reader that you are, but it’s news to this reviewer: Apparently, “Starbucking” has become a verb. It means the sorry trend for all coffeeshops, restaurants and even British publick houses to look alike inside and out, and not in a good way. Authenticity, warmth, local color and general flakiness go out the window as plasticized homogeneity and faked “atmosphere” – such as signs that look like chalkboards but aren’t really – take their place.
Yes, it’s the return of the Pod People – as exemplified in a whole host of sci-fi/horror movies beginning with the likes of the original Invasion of the Body-Snatchers and continuing through its remakes, The Stepford Wives and so on – only as applied to our social environments, instead of the beings who populate them. It’s no accident that those sorts of movies first arose in the ‘50s, as artistic sorts began to rebel against postwar social conformism and the rise of suburbia, because the soul-deadening effects of mindless conformity is exactly what they were about.
Bridging the gap between Starbucking places and Starbucking people was the obvious next step for the film industry. And there’s no more appropriate vehicle to accomplish that task, with considerable snarky humor thrown in with the social commentary, than the final installment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s so-called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End. The stories and the characters are different from the first two films, Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), but the themes are similar and the casts who won over so many moviegoers’ hearts remain largely intact.
British pubs have traditionally sported imaginative and evocative names, and the World’s End is traditionally the last stop of a dozen in an epic pub crawl known as the Golden Mile in the gentrifying hometown of the movie’s 40ish protagonists. It’s no great spoiler to add that it also portends what has been happening to that town in the decades since they left, and what lies ahead when they allow Gary King (Pegg), the former ringleader of their youthful drunken escapades, to talk them into having another go at drinking a pint of ale in all 12 taverns.
Their abortive first attempt, circa 1990, is fondly remembered by Gary – now in rehab, still dressing like a teenage thug and driving the same old bomb of a car – as the high point of his young life. His four best friends, however, have moved on, married, gotten real jobs and settled down. But as much of a loser as Gary is, he retains much of the manipulative verbal charm of yesteryear, and Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) yield their better judgment and agree to go along for the ride – even though Andy is now a determined teetotaler.