Monday, July 22, 2013
This Is the End Movie Review
In most cases, when young men gather together and hash out (most likely under the influence of varying types of drugs) what would go into their movie if they were given the chance by a Hollywood studio, the pitch never come to fruition. It becomes fodder for the ether, zany and lunatic ideas as easily forgotten as they were imagined. But for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing and directing team behind This Is the End, they actually got the chance and a modest studio budget to make a film that has everything but the kitchen sink thrown into it.
Rogen and Goldberg are childhood friends, so it’s hard not to imagine them sitting around as teens dreaming up the ultimate buddy action apocalypse movie. That they became big enough stars to get it made it quite remarkable. Then they went and front-loaded the movie with all their acting buddies including James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride, all of whom play versions of themselves. Their characters bear their actual names, but I don’t think we’re meant to believe they’re playing themselves. It’s more like the most hyped up versions of the kinds of characters they typically play. The list of celebrities who appear in cameo and supporting roles, at least one of whom lampoons himself to the point of possibly rendering his career into obscurity, includes Emma Watson, David Krumholtz, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna. This is a tight-knit little clique, a group of relatively young comedians who regularly appear in each others’ movies.
What starts out as a normal visit for Jay Baruchel visiting his good friend Seth Rogen in Los Angeles turns into a blistering hell on earth during a big party at James Franco’s new house. Something like an earthquake strikes and people in the streets are elevated to the sky in mysterious blue light. Meanwhile, those remaining on earth succumb to gaping caverns to the pits of hell and demon monsters that stalk the infidels. The six men hole up in Franco’s house, assuming some kind of natural disaster even as heat and flames surround the mansion. When a neighbor trying to enter is decapitated they know something serious is happening.
The majority of the action centers on the antics that take place as they go into survival mode by rationing what little food and water they have. But sooner or later infighting, jealousies, and other conflicts become much more pronounced and serve as the kindling for lots of screaming and yelling and, in at least one instance, a painfully hilarious shouting match between Franco and McBride about the release of certain bodily fluids around the house. I will admit to uncontrollable laughter in that one scene, but the rest of the time I hardly mustered more than a heavy chuckle. This comedy talent together should produce non-stop hilarity. Instead I found myself thinking that this whole thing was dreamed up by a couple of overgrown adolescents.
That’s not to say there’s nothing of interest taking place in the subtext. This Is the End is undoubtedly trying to fill a heretofore non-existent niche of satire. It skewers the disaster movie genre, but not with the slapstick stylings of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker, the Wayans brothers, or Disaster Movie. The use of actors portraying amped up versions of themselves, or in the case of Michael Cera, an unbelievably hysterical fictional version of himself, Goldberg and Rogen have fun poking and prodding the convention of gluttonously stacking the deck of the disaster genre with celebrity cameos. But then they don’t really take the joke anywhere. It just kind of lies there flat and gets beaten to death and overshadowed by as much outrageousness as these young men could obviously think of, including a seven-story tall Satan on earth with an appropriately large dangling appendage between his legs. Really guys? Juvenile penis humor is the best you could summon?
Rogen and Goldberg, both Jewish men, also miss a great opportunity to comment intelligibly on the fact that they are caught up in a very Christian apocalypse. Their ultimate desire to do good works and float heaven-bound in that lovely blue aura seems to come as a given in spite of their being members of a group that finds that whole part of the Bible to be a fantasy. Pineapple Express had more in the way of cultural commentary than this film can manage. This talent pool is capable of more as they’ve shown in the past. This Is the End is more than a bit lazy.