"It's the end of the world as we know it," to quote the 1987 R.E.M. rock song, and I was feeling fine until near the end of the movie "The World's End."

Then, as in so many movies nowadays, it seems all apocalypse breaks lose, and "World's End" ends in fire.

"Ice would suffice," to quote the 1920 Robert Frost "Fire and Ice" poem.

Instead, director Edgar Wright ("Shaun of the Dead," 2004; "Hot Fuzz," 2007; "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," 2010), loses his cool.

Wright fills the third act of "World's End" with a conflagration that engulfs a quaint English town and countryside and the storyline. What could have been a comedy classic gets torched in the flames of special effects.

Until that point, movie maven Mike Gontkosky and me were remarking at how "The World's End" is another classic from the droll British wits who brought us "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz."

The mordant humor, blank looks, flat delivery and rapid-fire dialogue are all here, and are great fun again, to a point.

In "The World's End," Gary King (Simon Pegg) organizes a pub crawl to recreate one that he and his friends took in June 1990 before they went their separate ways to careers, wives and domesticity.

King, who seems to have missed the memo about growing up, corrals his four mates, Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Oliver (Martin Freeman), into returning to Newton Haven, England, to have a pint at each of a dozen or so pubs, including the final stop, which happens to be named "The World's End."

Call these five blokes "Reservoir Grogs."

From one pub to another the salt of success is rubbed on old wounds, especially when former paramour, Sam (Rosamund Pike) shows up. There are high jinks aplenty. The gang bemoans the "Starbucking" of their old haunts.

The boys get more than they bargained for when the town's residents seem, well, just a bit odd almost as if they are from another planet. Indeed, the lads' former classroom teacher (a very good Pierce Brosnan) confirms their worst suspicions.

We won't play spoiler by revealing more of the plot.

"World's End" has a fun premise. Grainy, home-movie style footage of actors playing the protagonists as their younger selves gives a sense of nostalgia.

There's a lot of wordplay Dr. Ink, for example, as in "drink."

At times, the film has inventive camerawork reminiscent of a Danny Boyle directed film.

At other times, the film devolves into a preponderance of fisticuffs, the Armageddon-of-the-week film scenario and expositional gobbledygook of a mind-numbing magnitude.

Screenwriters Simon Pegg and Wright seem to have lost the plot. They ran out of ideas or time in fashioning the screenplay or the marketing gurus urged them to appeal to the fanboys' and gamers' world of mayhem.

That's too bad. For once, it seemed "The World's End" would not end so predictably.

"The World's End," MPAA rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian) for pervasive language including sexual references; Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi; Run time: 1 hour, 49 mins.; Distributed by Focus Features.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The World's End" filming locations included Welwyn Garden City, Letchworth Garden City, Dorking, and London, England, United Kingdom.

Box Office, Sept. 4: "Riddick" opened at No. 1 with $18.6 million for the start of the fall movie season, relegating "Lee Daniels' The Butler" to No. 2, after three weeks at No. 1, with $8.9 million, $91.9 million, four weeks;

3. "Instructions Not Included," $8.1 million; $20.3 million, two weeks; 4. "We're The Millers," $7.9 million, $123.8 million, five weeks; 5. "Planes," $4.2 million, $79.2 million, five weeks; 6. "One Direction: This Is Us," $4.1 million, $23.9 million, two weeks; 7. "Elysium," $3.1 million, $85 million, five weeks; 8. "Blue Jasmine," $2.6 million, $25.4 million, seven weeks; 9. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters," $2.5 million, $59.8 million, five weeks; 10. "The World's End," $2.3 million, $21.7 million, three weeks;

Unreel, Sept. 13:

"Insidious: Chapter 2," PG-13: The Lambert family is still trying to figure out how to distance themselves from the spirit world. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star in the horror-thriller directed by James Wan ("The Conjuring," "Insidious," "Saw").

"The Family," R: Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer star in the action comedy directed by Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita," "The Fifth Element") about a mafia family relocated to France.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com, and the Times News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@tnonline.com.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes