It all began with a short film called Jay and Seth vs the Apocalypse. If only it had ended there! The short is totally the better movie.
The film begins innocuously enough: Jay Baruchel (as himself) visits L.A. to do some business and see his old buddy, Seth Rogen (also as himself). Predictably, they get high and play video games. Who’d a thunk it? After a day of such noble pursuits, Seth convinces a reluctant Jay to join him at James Franco’s house warming party, which turns out to be the end of the world.
When Baruchel and Rogen go to grab some smokes and reevaluate the status of their bromance, people are raptured into the sky on columns of blue light all around them, leaving them to flee through the chaos in hopes of reaching the safety of Franco’s modern concrete house.
Then some crap happens. Whatever. Anyway, Rogen, Baruchel and Franco are joined in the house by a few surviving party-goers: Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, where they get into ridiculous situations in an effort to survive, and eventually ascend into heaven. So, basically, more crap happens. Silly, gory, trite crap.
And that’s all there is to it, aside from a handful of horrible deaths, massive penis-swinging demons and a dash of Emma Watson hitting Rogen in the face with an axe handle. If there’s any reason to see this obscenely self-referential buddy spoof that would be it. Of course, they put that in the trailer so you can just stay home.
Look, the acting is great, in the sense that it’s natural. All of those actors are doing what they’re good at. But hipster references, name-calling and a litany of callbacks to one’s previous work are not the keys to comedy. The scare gags and physical comedy are the funniest parts of this flick, leaving the dialogue superficially snappy and ostensibly witty.
The digital effects are great too, though hardly ground-breaking, and far from ubiquitous. And it’s not really tragically unfunny. As much as I didn’t like the flick, it did get a few chuckles out of me. I mean, it’s not Clerks bad.
In the end of This is the End, the characters each face moral dilemmas to determine their final judgments. While it would be better to think of the story as a satirical indictment of organized religion, it’s really just lazy screenwriting (courtesy Rogen and Evan Goldberg, with story by Goldberg and Jason Stone), more apropos to an early Mario game than a civilized audience.
The sheer narcissism that Rogen and company hurl like monkey feces at their fans is astonishing. There’s no pretense of character. The only plot hook is that you might already want to see this particular movie. And if you love those guys, you do. Pineapple Express and Superbad were not smart movies, by any means, but they were funnier. It’s almost like visiting a failing theme park, where things are dirty and broken, and every worker shouts, “Remember how good it was before? It’s still that good! Even better! Really!”
Ultimately, This is the End is offensive. Not because of drugs and partying and cursing madly. Not because of pompous self-reference. Not even because of demon rape. This movie offends because it thinks so very little of its audience. If you’re looking for totally vacant entertainment, this may be the summer comedy for you.
This is the End (http://www.thisistheend.com) opens nationally in wide release today (June 12). For locations and show times in the Nashville area check the websites of Regal Cinemas (www.regmovies.com), Carmike Cinemas (www.carmike.com) and Malco Theatres (www.malco.com). Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence, 106 min. Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg with story by Goldberg and Jason Stone. Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera.
*Photos by Suzanne Hanover, SMPSP courtesy Columbia Pictures.