This is the End (2013) – Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg (Dir.), Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera (for like 2 minutes), and everyone who has ever been in a Judd Apatow movie ever
Ah yes, after all my caterwauling (fuck yeah, that’s a real word) about the lack of decent scripts in Hollywood, a nascent inability to imbue anything popular with any more depth than a corgi’s paddling pool, and the general dumbing of the American mind and soul, this little ditty came along. Before I will say anything, I giggled my ass off for probably 90% of this 107 min gross-out, Left Behind Satan-penis fest. I don’t mean I LOLed, as we tend to when reading a text that we find mildly amusing. I mean, full body, foaming at the mouth, I-thought-I-was-going-to-have-a-seizure belly-aching. I turned into my dad watching the fart scene from Blazing Saddles. I was that absurd. However, that being said, was the movie good? I think this one will go down with 81/2 and Citizen Kane for its subtlety and all-encompassing examination of the human condition. I mean, Satan’s penis is amputated by a shaft of god’s grace. That shit is Chekovian.
Alright, alright. So, this little celebrity reach-around of a movie begins with Jay Baruchel, the now distant friend of Seth Rogen, coming to tinsel town for a weekend of fun. During which, against his wishes, Jay finds himself at James Franco’s self-aggrandizing compound, surrounded by coke-powered, blow-job having, ass-slapping yobos such as Michael Cera (no joke, he does all of those things). It is a panoply of pointless excess and it allows every one of Rogen’s friends to either poke fun of themselves or have Michael Cera blow cocaine in their face (poor, poor McLovin’). Well, after an extended stint in this Sodom and butt-buddy Gomorrah, the Rapture occurs. Yes, the actual fucking Rapture. Like, Left Behind if every other word in the book was ‘penis’. Of course, none of the actors nor their vapid friends get the express route into heaven and are stuck fighting an increasing number of demons and other hellish beasts until they either make the transition through the pearly gates…or they eat people’s faces off.
Okay. A comedy’s first job is to make people laugh. This one succeeds. From the severed head accidental soccer to The Exorcist parody, this movie is filled with funny. Everybody is doing their thing, but in a slightly exaggerated skin. We’ve got James “I Wish I Could Perform Self-Felatio” Franco, Craig “The Snuggles” Robinson, Seth “Yes, His Laugh Happens and it Makes You Want to Die” Rogen, a disarmingly subdued performance from Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride as possibly the most detestable creature since your cousin came to town unannounced and ate ALL OF YOUR MAC AND CHEESE and the point isn’t that mac and cheese is expensive, it’s just the complete assholishness of eating it without asking AND THEN NOT BUYING MORE (I’m looking at you, Allen). Sorry about that. Anyway, at the center of this thinly veiled Jacobean comedy is Jay Baruchel who, against all odds, makes you want him to live. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. Ever since She’s Out of Your League and the few episodes of Undeclared I could stomach, I wanted him to have an unfortunate weedwacking incident. But here, he keeps the film centered, the preachy and vulnerable one, while the others flail about in the ensuing deluge of cum jokes.
However, after I left the theater, savoring a few of the classier gags (one involves McBride’s buttsex gimp), I found myself lacking. Yes, of course this is a dumb stoner comedy in it’s essence. But it didn’t feel like a comedy. It felt like a fucking apocalypse movie (with perhaps the lowest budget known to man). Maybe I wanted more famous people to have survived the initial slaughter and later find themselves torn to pieces by a hell hound or something. At it’s center, the film was surprisingly compelling. In a gore comedy (a subgenre I just invented) everyone is expendable. Who knows? Everyone could fucking die at the drop of the hat because they ran out of one-liners. After a while, this stopped feeling like Pineapple Express and more like Game of Thrones. You’re just waiting for the next Red Wedding and a blood orgy with James Franco’s stupid fucking face in the center. I found myself fighting the urge to care about these douchebags as the final act lumbered along and the crew finds themselves caught in the midst of a Hollywood hellscape. And no, I’m not talking about rush hour on the 1 (OH! GEOGRAPHICAL REFERENCE BURN! Yeah, full disclosure, I know nothing about LA). But, this was all pretty much ruined by the cheap ‘redemptions’ that happen faster than a Brittany Spears divorce agreement. Perhaps this is a commentary on God’s shallowness. All it takes is saying you’ll die for your friends, or maybe a really big hug, and St. Peter nods and goes, “Eh, good enough.” Perhaps it’s a tacked on emotional ending because the rest of this thing is about as hollow as Donald Trump’s soul.
It reminded me of the other ‘end of the world’ comedy coming out this year from the holy trinity of British genre comedy, World’s End. You know, it’s the one with Scotty from Star Trek and, well, Nick Frost. Both the Pegg/Frost/Wright crew and the Rogen-ites/Apatostles settle on the same themes when it comes to their comedy arcs. We almost always see a bromance in danger or rekindled under great duress, all leading to an explosion of third-act bear hugs. However, it seems that Pegg et al manage to really get to the core of their characters, be they idiotic or arrogant, and push them to the limits. From Shaun and his inability to grow up to Nicholas Angel is his difficulty with letting loose a little. With the Rogen crew, the movies act as an excuse for them to wax poetic on the finer points of explosive ejaculation before some sorry fellow has to edit it into something coherent (you have my respect, Mr. Goldberg). This movie is simply the final solution to their problem that has been growing since The 40-Year Old Virgin…well, they finally dropped the act and just played themselves instead of troubling with ‘chaarcters’. Now what? There are only so many bromantic avenues down which we can travel. And shit, this one was hilarious. Especially Jonah Hill as the Patrick Bateman/Linda Blair of comedy. Will I see it again? Probably. If only for Channing Tatum (SPOILERS). Will it be remembered? Probably not. For a movie whose only card to play is how gross it can be there wasn’t enough. Yes, there was a severed head, but what about disembowelments? Yes we had cannibals, but where were the uncomfortable shots of them munching on some testes Apocalypto-style? Am I simply insatiable? Are my standards for horrific violence and vulgarity simply too high? Is there not enough Satan Penis to leave me satisfied?
Wait…I should cut out that last sentence. Eh, fuck it. We’ll do it live.
Go see this movie. You will turn into a gigglesaurus. Also, The Backstreet Boys. I’VE SAID TOO MUCH!