Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 23, 2021)
With 2021’s Shoplifters of the World, we head back to the 80s – 1987, to be specific. There we meet a group of friends who work through a mix of events.
On this particular day, they learn news that devastates them: their favorite band the Smiths breaks up. In addition, Billy (Nick Krause) enjoys only one more day of freedom before he enters the military.
Determined to send off Billy in style, the pals set out to enjoy a last evening of shenanigans. This leads them on a mix of adventures.
That “one wild night” framework won’t exactly count as fresh. Umpteen movies have used it, so World needs to find a fresh way to spin the concept.
The connection to the Smiths adds a twist. Actually, the focus on that band made me think World would take place in the UK, since the Smiths enjoyed enormous success there but barely made a commercial dent in the States.
Instead, we find World set in Colorado. Why? Because in the 80s, a teen tried to take over a Denver radio station, and that becomes a plot point here. Indeed, the movie’s prologue refers to it as “based on true intentions”.
The radio station narrative seems fairly irrelevant to the overall narrative. While it offers a quirky twist, the friends’ journey feels like enough to carry the story.
Now that I see the movie, I understand the plot need to tell the tale in Denver vs. the UK, though. The setting allows for the characters to exist as outsiders, and that would seem more difficult to do if the film occupied a country where the Smiths dominated the charts.
I get the feeling the entire Smiths orientation exists more as an excuse to play the band’s songs, though. Beyond the “radio station takeover” motif, this doesn’t feel especially organic.
Indeed, World often feels more like a long promo reel for the Smiths than a character-based tale. Writer/director Stephen Kijak intersperses clips of the band and other elements, all because… I don’t know.
Kijak did a bunch of music documentaries like Stones in Exile, and World seems more comfortable in that domain. Kijak certainly doesn’t appear to know how to create a compelling character-based “coming of age” tale.
Apparently World took nearly a decade to finally come out. Kijak’s script languished through various cast changes until it finally shot in fall 2018.
Why did World sit on shelves for two and a half years post-filming? I have no idea, just as I don’t know why the movie required so much time to finally go in front of the cameras.
Perhaps those involved hoped Kijak would tighten up the script and make it more than a weird mix of music video and character drama. Unfortunately, the end result never gets there, as it packs nothing more than genre clichés.
Maybe Kijak couldn’t get approval from the Smiths to use the music, which would seem odd because World feels like one long ad for their catalog. As implied, the movie doesn’t specifically need the Smiths beyond the semi-superfluous radio station thread, so the project seems like a promotional effort to sell Smiths albums.
God knows the characters never vaguely turn into anything interesting. We get one-dimensional roles who mope about how “different” they are and whine about the conformist world.
Yawn. Not that kids don’t go through those phases, but as I noted earlier, World needs something different to allow it to give the overdone genre its own twist.
World plays like a middle-aged man’s attempts to recapture the spirit of youth. Kijak fails miserably in that effort.
Beyond all those Smiths tunes, though, World doesn’t find it. Trite, stale and uninspired, the movie fails to find anything new to say, and it lacks the depth necessary to overcome its cliché nature.