I did not like it.
I did not like it and I was surprised by this. What went wrong for me? Where did this fall flat when I was watching this movie? Some of the answers may surprise you.
Let us begin with that the movie gets off to a painfully slow start. Really. It takes quite awhile before the meat of this movie begins to emerge. And once the ball gets rolling and King Arthur and his knights.....er..... Gary King and the boys begin to discover the truth of their former hometown the movie picks up steam and improves slightly.
I also did not find the movie very funny either. For a trio of extremely talented, funny people who make genre hybrid films that infuse comedy with another (Hot Fuzz was a blend of comedy and every action movie trope ever) this movie felt lacking. A great deal of the humor in the movie felt forced and it made the dialogue come off as uncomfortable rather than humorous. Some jokes just fell flat for me as well. Comedy is hit or miss and mostly they missed the mark for me. In fact I do not remember the audience in attendance laughing at all. Possibly the two times I did but it was really quiet in there. Just and uncomfortable time.
The movie is also a thinly veiled Arthurian legend retelling. While you may think I'm crazy for thinking this as a fast example just check out the last names of the main characters: King, Paige, Knightley, Chamberlain, Prince. Their names sum up how they act in film too. Hell, Gary King and Steven Prince both have a thing for Samantha Chamberlain and at the end of the movie Steven wins her heart. So Lancelot wins Guinevere away from Arthur. The use of circles in this movie are references to The Round Table as they usually involve the boys sitting around them. And the pint at the end of the golden mile pub crawl, the twelfth pint....which is sitting alone on a table for Gary....labelled #12, is his Holy Grail and the answer to becoming a legend, worthwhile, and gives his life meaning. To become immortal.
Which brings me to the main part of the movie that I did not like. Simon Pegg's character Gary King. I loathed this character. All charisma, but hollow. He is very difficult to like. He is this person who was somewhat popular, arrogant, a bad role model, was not very good at anything, and for some unknown reason people would follow him to the end of the earth. I watched how the others in the group talked to him; a specter of their past that reemerged and is once more making their lives a chaotic mess.
Just watching how they talk to Gary they feel uncomfortable being around him. They know this will end poorly for them. Think about someone you knew in high school that you had tons of fun with, your parents disapproved of, and you knew had no ambitions past fun. Now imagine meeting that person 10+ years later and they are still the same even down to their clothes and wanting to resume just where you left off without taking into account you've grown up, you have changed and have moved on with your life. Uncomfortable.
Fortunately once the booze starts flowing some of that unease dissolves and they start to reminisce and have some fun. But you still cannot shake the feeling that being around Gary King is a bad idea and he is a lost artifact that should have stayed that way. And the damnedest thing is Gary King is played to NOT be likable, to be that ghost from a past time. To be that asshole friend. Simon Pegg plays this brilliantly.
And I saw parts of Gary King in who I was and people I know now. I did not like this. I go to a movie for fun and entertainment not for self reflection especially in a comedy about a pub crawl with alien replicants assimilating mankind. I saw my youth and people I once spent time with. I saw some of the behaviors of my misspent youth and cringed at what I was. I watch King and saw some people in my life currently that if given a push the wrong way will become Gary King.
Then in the final act we see why Gary needs this crawl. At the start of the movie you think he is in an AA group meeting. In fact it was a suicide survivors group meeting in a hospital. Gary's wrists were bandaged up with the hospital wrist band still on. Gary NEEDS this to accomplish something in his life because he knows how much everyone else as moved on and he remained stagnant. He knows he is pathetic and a loser. And I saw that in myself in my late teens. And I contemplated suicide myself. Stopped myself short of actually pulling the trigger and broke down in tears. This is a literal statement. So yeah I hate Gary King because I was him as I felt hopeless and pointless in my life. I am fortunate that I have moved past that and have done something productive with my life and am happy.
And this stained my view of this movie. Perhaps after a few more viewings I can appreciate this movie for what it was. But for now....some of it hit too close to home for me and made me uncomfortable.