This is The End (2013) Review

This movie is outrageously vulgar, vile, and, in some ways, barely counts as a legitimate film, operating more as a hangout session between popular (and usually stoned) comedians. If it has a saving grace, it’s that it’s pretty damn funny.

Damned fun is probably more appropriate, in that it takes place during the Christian Apocalypse, the time foretold in the Book of Revelations. Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride, all familiar faces to Judd Apatow fans, as well as frequent collaborators on their own projects (like this one), spend 100 minutes stuck inside Franco’s palatial estate after a swank Hollywood party is ended by the wrath of God. These man-children must battle the forces of darkness, survive boredom, and fend for food against other famous faces as they confront their own pettiness and stupidity.

I hate to expose myself as an intractable stick in the mud but I had no desire to see this film in theatres. It was not even the trailers but the mere cast itself that convinced me this was probably a better rental than a summer date night. But summer date night it became and the infectious merriment of the date beside me gradually broke down my sticky, muddy defenses and set me to rights.

I have a confession to make: I did not enjoy Anchorman when it first came out. I know, it’s a sacrilege, but its initial theatrical run left me significantly underwhelmed. It was only a year later, sharing drinks with friends around a small television set that Will Ferrell’s charm finally broke through; I realized that Anchorman, like many of Apatow’s modern comedies, does not necessarily stand on its own merits but is instead bolstered by the atmosphere around it. Allowing oneself to get a little dumber and feed off of the good cheer around you is paramount to enjoying the film for what it is: a little dumb comedy full of good cheer.

So, returning from that digression, the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg co-directed feature This is The End is most definitely in the same mold. On its own merits the film is not a great piece of work. Sloppy direction, an almost nonexistent plot about friendship, a great deal of improvisational back and forth that is hit and miss throughout, and almost entirely shot on one location. What’s to like? I stated in my review to Movie 43 that the saving grace of a tasteless film is that it’s funny, or true. This is The End succeeds on both counts.

It’s funny because for every strikeout there is about two solid hits, and that’s not a bad ratio of yucks. It’s true because this film, though not delving particularly deeply into this fact, acknowledges that celebrities are our modern aristocracy. They’re vain, self-righteous, overpaid, oblivious, and largely useless when not doing the one thing they know how to do: act. Almost all of them, with the exception of Jay Baruchel (our protagonist by virtue of being the least choleric of the bunch), wonder aloud and at length how they could be living through the Apocalypse if all the good people were taken straight to heaven.

This is The End has all the hallmarks of an Apatow film while also slightly deconstructing one, starting with the fact that each of the actors is playing a version of himself, which is more or less what they do in every film anyway. Here they have no excuse for their characters’ stupidity and selfishness, making their foibles that much funnier. But it also allows them to behave a little closer to what their audience is probably like: they get high and have stupid ideas, they fantasize about sequels to their films, and sometimes they do both.

Rest assured, there are demons in this film and the creature designs are surprisingly creepy (though, unsurprisingly, entirely phallo-centric). And probably one of the funniest moments (aside from a drawn-out argument between Franco and McBride over masturbatory preferences) is when Jonah Hill becomes possessed by a demon and becomes, basically, Jonah Hill possessed by a demon. Better than it sounds on paper.

I could give you more plot, but there isn’t one, and for this kind of film it’s better if you go into it unaware of what devious silliness you’re in for. The jokes hit harder. I will say that if you’re not a fan of Judd Apatow, National Lampoon, or crass and downright grotesque humor, you will not enjoy yourself here and you should stay well away. But if you like these actors, if you love their comedies, you’ll get everything you’ve come to expect and then some. The jokes, barring a ton of glaring product placement, do not let up.

Perhaps the moral here is that even God can forgive us our naughtiness if we just keep making people laugh.

Based on “Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse” by Jason Stone

This is The End (2013)
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Columbia Pictures
107 Minutes

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