Occasionally when sitting through a bad movie with a talented cast, I find myself echoing a question posed by Gene Siskel – “Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?” This question went through my head about a dozen times as I was watching ‘Grown Ups’ back in 2010 – I’m sure the aforementioned documentary would have been far more successful that the scripted comic situations they were bound by. The highly profane, but well-intentioned ‘This Is the End’ features a lineup of A-list comedians playing themselves.
So, Jay Baruchel (you know him, he’s Canadian) arrives in Los Angeles to visit his friend and fellow actor Seth Rogen. They get high, play video games, and head over to James Franco’s house party. There, they meet fellow stars – hey look, it’s Jonah Hill! Craig Robinson! Emma Watson! Michael Cera! Rihanna! Jay and Seth (we’re all friends here, we can call them by their first names now) head to the convenience store; weird stuff happens here – there is a loud explosion followed by people getting sucked up through holes in the ceiling via blue beams that disappear into the sky. Jay and Seth rush back to James’ party where the same thing happens there – the biblically inclined would refer to this as The Rapture; ah, it’s the good ones who ascend into heaven whilst the rest (including a lot of Hollywooders) slip into the fiery pit of Hell when a giant sink-hole opens from the ground. With most everyone (seemingly) killed, James, Seth, Jay, Jonah barricade the home’s door; they discover that Danny McBride is alive and well – he had crashed the party and passed out during the entire event. With Los Angeles in ruins and an anatomically accurate demonic monster on the loose, the survivors try to figure out what to do.
Even though we’ve proven that the Mayan ‘2012’ hypothesis was a monumental miscalculation, the end of the world is still a hot topic at the movies these days – ‘It’s a Disaster’, ‘4:44 Last Day on Earth’, ‘Melancholia’, ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ are among a couple recently examples of this subgenre. But, this picture is more a spoof on their own creative historical work than it is of films about global annihilation – the humor is very much of the self-deprecating variety. The threat of the apocalypse actually gives these actors the opportunity to participate in some relationship workshopping and to clear up any interpersonal conflicts.
I liked the documentarian visual aesthetic (thanks to James’ ‘127 Hours’ camera) – it makes us believe that these guys really do know each other – and these actors (at least some of them) are more or less the way we imagined they would be in real life. Seth appears insecure and like the sort of friend who is very difficult to please. Jay is low-key; he has a select group of people he will open up to but remains mostly reclusive amongst his Hollywood crowd. James is as pretentious as I had suspected (well, didn’t he want to implemented and teach a J-Franco 101 college-based course?).
At the end of the day, the ultimate question is whether or not ‘This is the End’ is funny – it is; and in some moments, outrageously so. I don’t think it’s a perfect comedy – there is an overreliance on penis jokes and bathroom humor, but I admire the fact that the filmmakers (Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen) have thrown the entire pot of spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. The scene that had me laughing the hardest involved a rape joke; not everyone is going to laugh at this – some may be downright offended by it. That being said, unlike ‘The Hangover’ pictures, I don’t think the jokes in ‘This is the End’ are all that mean-spirited. This is partly because Mr.Goldberg and Mr.Rogen are able to demonstrate the vulnerability that accompanies male friendships – these truly are sweet guys as much as they pretend to be otherwise.
Your laugh mileage may vary, but I think there were enough laugh-out-loud moments in ‘This is the End’ to warrant a recommendation. This was clearly a project that the actors loved to be a part of – it shows; there’s a lot of energy onscreen. I’d like to see ‘The Exorcism of Jonah Hill II’ someday. QED.