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By T. T. Stern-Enzi


Films about imbibing alcohol invariably take on the characteristics of the spirits in question. Wine maintains itself as the upscale choice, ensconced in the finery of vintage, the regionalism of the grapes, the aging process. Expense and exclusivity rule, which explains a film like 2008’s “Bottle Shock” that dared to tell the story of the rebellious early days of California wine making. There was no way a U.S. upstart could compete in the infamous blind tastings of Paris, right? Forget about it.

Hard liquor suffers from the tainted stain of hard addiction. Its drinkers are weary alcoholics. Men with sandpapery beards and disheveled women sway and stumble through desperate scenes with no hope, offering audiences only a point of comparison that tells us our lives, no matter how bad, are better than that. Nicolas Cage gave a hell of a performance in “Leaving Las Vegas” – quite possibly his last great and sustained one – but no one walked out of the theater eager to run into that character in a bar.

All of which leads to the most ubiquitous social lubricant of all, the one that appears most frequently onscreen, yet does so while drawing – in most cases – the least attention to itself. Films are full of bar scenes, rousing and rowdy gatherings with open and flowing taps, but try thinking of a movie, besides “The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew” that’s actually about beer.

So, it seems, as if on cue, it falls to none other than director Edgar Wright and his co-screenwriting star Simon Pegg to deliver the definitive alternative take on the social impact of beer on friendship and the apocalypse in “The World’s End.” The late summer release reunites Gary King (Pegg), a legend only in his deluded mind, with Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine) and Peter (Eddie Marsan), his mates from 20 years ago, who began – but failed – to complete an epic pub-crawl. Hook-ups and over-indulging prevented them from having a pint in each of the 12 pubs along the way, concluding at a bar that’s literally called The World’s End.

The big anniversary gives Gary all the incentive he needs to gather the fellas for a second shot. The pesky notion of this taking place during the literal end of the world, thanks to a body-snatching alien invasion, can’t dampen the celebratory spirit of the exercise. During an NPR interview while promoting the release, Pegg and Frost talked about the British love of a good pint, but I would argue this isn’t exclusive to the Brits.

In fact, it has little to do with individuals or the peoples of any one nation or another. This is all about the beer. It is the most democratic of adult beverages. One of my favorite non-movie memories involves my very own experience on a pub-crawl, which took place prior to my college graduation ceremony. All of the seniors got together at noon down in Philadelphia’s Olde City and proceeded to drink their way through more bars than I care to admit in print, weaving our way through the city until reaching the far end of campus in West Philadelphia. Few ever completed that crawl either, but what mattered was the community, the gathering. It was the creation of a shared mythology.

Beer does that like no other spirit. So, raise a glass. Better yet, try this. When “The World’s End” arrives on DVD, take a copy to your favorite watering hole, pop it in the player over the bar (skip the game just this once), and toss a cold one back with Gary and the boys every time they grab a pint along the way.

That’s the spirit!