I will allow that I’m probably grading on a curve, but This Is the End isn’t the sort of disastrous disaster movie I expected.
It’s a lazy idea - Seth Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg (the Canadian writing team that brought us Superbad and Pineapple Express, but also The Green Hornet) decided to get a bunch of their celebrity pals together to play mildly caricatured versions of their public images and put them in the most stressful situation imaginable, a literal staging of Christian eschatology, complete with a Rapture component. Set the thing at a party at “James Franco’s house” - which looks almost as much like something Le Corbusier might have designed for Carmelo Anthony as it does a New Orleans sound stage - to provide an excuse for bringing all the stars together, then (spoiler alert!) kill off the excess cameo power early - Michael Cera gets justice in a particularly satisfying way - so they only have to commit to a day or two on set, and let our core group of boys riff and rail at one another while every now and then loosing some fresh hell on them.
It sounds like one of those movies that would be more fun to make than to watch.
And it probably was, but it is a blast to watch. Like I told the studio rep fishing for a blurb, it’s too long and probably theologically unsound and all the demons looked pretty fakey, but I laughed. Hard and with some regularity. And so did my companion, who generally isn’t as forgiving of Stooge humor as I am. So while I cringed both times the “Book of Revelations” was invoked - it’s not plural, people, do some research! - and while my tolerance for gratuitous gore is somewhat less than average, I am compelled (compelled!) to say this messy and amateurish (not to mention vulgar and silly) Hollywood vanity project is maybe the funniest movie I’ve seen since, uh, Bachlorette? Bridesmaids? The Love Guru? It was for sure funnier than 21 Jump Street, which was another movie I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed as much as I did.
Now some people, and you probably know who you are, are going to be offended. You shouldn’t go. And you sure shouldn’t take your little kids. Little kids these days are wised up and snarky enough without being exposed to a potty-mouthed Hermione (Emma Watson).
But there’s another way to look at this film - it’s a very savvy send up of the way we perceive celebrities as vapid and self-involved ciphers who are so often flattered and coddled that they come to accept applause as their due. We can imagine James Franco behaving in the intellectually pretentious and sexually ambiguous way his character acts in the film because of the stories about him that have filtered out over the past couple of years. For him, This Is the End is a great rehab move, evidence that he may not quite be the sort of poseur that websites like Gawker and Deadspin make him out to be.
I have met Jonah Hill exactly twice in my life and cannot help but think of him as one of the kindest and sweetest people in the world - I’ve even told people that he’s “creepily nice” (which I meant as a compliment, Jonah; don’t feel bad, I really like you, I even liked Allen Gregory) - and so his portrayal here strikes me as brilliantly self-aware. And Jay Baruchel - who was pretty spectacular as a rink rat in the underrated hockey comedy Goon (he and Goldberg adapted a nonfiction book) comes across as a relatively level-headed - if somewhat hipsteresque - outsider who hates that he’s losing his fellow Canadian Rogen to Hollywood phoniness.
I believe Craig Robinson is perfectly capable of gouging a man’s eyes out over a foosball game. I think he probably did just that, and that the painful memory informs his craft. He honors his victim with this performance.
On the other hand, Danny McBride isn’t acting at all. He simply is that savage and that kick-ass. He is Caliban, or maybe Cthulhu; anyway, he’s the devourer of creation. Bow down and follow him.
This Is the End 87 Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen Rating: R, for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence Running time: 107 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 06/14/2013
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