In the summer of 2013, I’d contrasted two “End of the World” movies that could hardly have been more different: World War Z and This Is The End. The latter movie took the apocalypse genre and played it for laughs, and did it successfully overall. It isn’t alone, though, in handling the Final Days with a laugh track. Within comedy’s broad umbrella, there are three other recent movies that have dealt with this – one with broad humor, one with a mix of pathos and outrageousness, and one that cast a jaundiced eye at what the experience would be like.
The World’s End (2013) was the final film in the “Cornetto” series – named for an addictive English ice cream treat that’s like a “Drumstick” in the US, but on steroids. All the movies were directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, and starred Pegg and Nick Frost. The first two films, Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz beautifully spoofed the horror and buddy cop genres, while World’s End takes on science fiction.
Pegg plays a ne’er-do-well who gathers his old band of mates to do an epic pub crawl. Twenty years earlier, as fresh school graduates, the group had tried and failed miserably to make it through the ten pubs in their home town. The others in the group, played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, are roped in by Pegg, whose time in school was his high water mark. Once back home, Pegg meets up with the love of his early life, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl). The group’s plans are compromised when they discover most of the town’s current inhabitants have been replaced by robots.
The film owes much to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though Wright and Pegg put their own twist on it. Overall World’s End is the weakest film of the “Cornetto” series, but that’s in part because Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz set the bar so high.
Seeking a Friend for The End of The World (2012) pairs Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly as two neighbors who are thrust together as a 70 mile wide asteroid approaches the Earth. Think Armageddon without Bruce Willis or any hope of salvation.
The movie also fits into the road trip genre. As society breaks down, Carell and Knightly leave the city where they’ve lived in pursuit of two final goals. For Carell, it’s to find a girl he’d loved and lost years earlier, while Knightly wants to somehow make it back to the British Isles to say goodbye to her family. While they travel together, what’s important to them slowly changes.
Seeking a Friend is unusual in its hopelessness, which is not something one often sees portrayed in a film – usually with good reason, since it kills the box office. Even with Carell and Knightly, the film only grossed about six million in theaters. It’s leavened, though, by several outrageous scenes, including having dinner at a chain restaurant that promotes happiness a little too forcefully.
It’s A Disaster (2012) was made for a micro-budget by writer/director Todd Berger, and had a micro box office during its brief release, but it’s now available on HBO and streaming services. You don’t usually think indie film and disaster flick at the same time, but Berger pulls it off.
Four couples come together for a “couples brunch.” Tracey (Julia Stiles), a single doctor, brings the man she’s dating, Glen (David Cross) to the home of Emma and Pete (Errin Hayes, Blaise Miller). Also there are Lexi and Buck (Rachel Boston, Kevin Brennan) who are loosely married, and Hedy and Shane (America Ferrera, Jeff Grace) who’ve been engaged for half a decade. The dinner party becomes uncomfortable quickly, but then they’re forced to stay together when a series of dirty bombs are exploded in the city and they must seal up the house to survive.
Berger presents eight modern, self-centered people who are pretty much useless in a crisis. Part of the fun is to see how most of them stay true to form even when faced with their own mortality, while some take a quick dive off the deep end. Think of the film as On the Beach played by the cast of “Seinfeld.”
If the world ever does come to an end, you might want to pass the time until the end binge-watching these films. Go out with a smile on your face.