Mark Reviews Movies

This Is the End


3 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera

MPAA Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence)

Running Time: 1:47

Release Date: 6/12/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 12, 2013

It starts with a fairly obvious joke: Celebrities are narcissistic jerks without a shred of decency or any sense of compassion.  This Is the End takes that premise to the extreme: If the biblical Apocalypse began, none of the attendees at a Hollywood party would be among those spared the torment of Hell on Earth through the Rapture. If one thinks having company in such a terrible situation would be a good thing, we must then return to film's original joke.

Here is a film that possesses all the hallmarks of what can make modern American comedy so lazy. It features broad characterizations and actors performing in an equally slapdash way to compensate. A lot of the dialogue seems to be improvised riffs on a given subject, and it relies a good deal on popular culture references to buttress its material. For the sake of consistency, I should not like this film. Such a thought must now lead me remind you of Ralph Waldo Emerson and state that "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Yes, all of these elements could lead to laziness, but the film embraces them. They're a necessary part of the joke. All of the actors play versions of themselves. They are petty in their outlooks and limited in their range of conversation material.

This is a comedy about the little minds of people who know no other way of living or behaving, and something as inconsequential as the end of the world isn't going to break that cycle of foolish consistency. If I'm going to be foolishly consistent and try to use the key phrases from the Emerson quote in this analogy, it should be mentioned that one of the actors here once played a goblin of sorts, and he keeps a promotional life-size cardboard cutout of himself as that character in his basement.

This is all really to say that, as satire of the self-involved Hollywood mindset, the film, especially in its first and second acts, works quite well. As demons lay waste to the outside world with fire and brimstone, what else is a group of actors trapped in a house going to do other than make a homemade trailer for a proposed sequel to a movie that the majority of them were in?

The film begins with Seth Rogen waiting for his old friend Jay Baruchel's flight to arrive in Los Angeles, and random fans and a cameraman, who wonders when Rogen is going to play a character who isn't just a version of himself, make certain we know these actors are playing themselves. Baruchel doesn't like Hollywood, so Rogen ensures his friend's trip is a good one by offering snacks, soda, video games, and pot at his house. After a while, Rogen suggests they go to James Franco's housewarming party. Baruchel doesn't like the idea, especially upon hearing that Jonah Hill is going to be there. They hate each other, Baruchel says.

It all starts innocently enough in the vein of a party movie in which, it just so happens, everyone is famous to one degree or another. Craig Robinson is singing a song about a woman dropping her underwear in an unsuccessful attempt to woo Rihanna. Hill is desperately trying to make friends with Baruchel with excessive displays of amiability. Michael Cera, who, in a way completely contradictory to his usual screen persona, is a cocaine fiend who blows some of the white powder in Christopher Mintz-Plasse's face before he's found in the bathroom with pants around his ankles a woman on either side of him. Franco reigns over his party with no little pride in how great his new house is, and he makes sure Rogen notices that he's commissioned paintings of their names.

When all Hell quite literally breaks loose, the screenplay by Rogen and Evan Goldberg (both of whom also directed) demolishes any expectations we might have for the scenario—first and foremost by killing off about half of the recognizable faces in the cast in a giant pit that opens in the ground of Franco's front lawn. Of all the perverse gags—of which there are plenty, including but not limited to demon penises, vomit, bodily fluids (There's a long argument about one that only a group of men stuck together for a period of time could have), all manners of grotesque death, cannibalism, etc.—in the film, this sudden departure of so many characters is perhaps the most shocking. It leaves Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Robinson, and Hill to fend for themselves, and Danny McBride shows up unannounced and angry he wasn't invited to the party.

A lot of the humor comes from the clashing of egos and general cowardice in the face of actually having to confront danger for the good of themselves as individuals and a group, and the juxtaposition of this petty bickering (The surviving actors are quite adept at it) with the biblical End Times works in favor of both elements. If the movie is solely about the joke regarding Hollywood vanity and selfishness, it's one that displays a surprising amount of imagination in incorporating various end-of-the-world clichés (e.g., a marauding band of cannibals) and demonic figures, which are rendered with special effects of equally surprising efficiency,  into the comedy.

Even those elements are obscene. The first time we see a demon on screen in This Is the End, it's set on violating one of the house guests (It leads to one of the film's funniest gags in a random cut to a title setting up the exorcism of said character; the exorcism itself, in which they can only use The Exorcist as a guide to how to perform one, is pretty amusing, too), and there's a climactic standoff with an even bigger beast made of molten rock and is, yes, anatomically correct. It may be a sophomoric type of imagination, but it's still better than the alternative.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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