Andy Bockelman: ‘This Is the End’: Apocalypse huh?
June 20, 2013
If you go
“This Is the End,” rated R
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and James Franco.
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
If you knew you weren't going to see tomorrow, what would be on your to-do list?
Patching things up with friends and family? Professing your feelings to someone you've always loved from afar?
Taking a crazy dangerous amount of drugs and engaging in an orgy? Gleefully feasting on human flesh? With "This Is the End," there's really no wrong answer.
When actor Jay Baruchel flies into Los Angeles to spend some time with friend Seth Rogen, his only expectation is to spend time with his old buddy and hopefully avoid the rigmarole of life in L.A. Instead of the easygoing hangout they had planned, the two wind up at an insane party hosted by James Franco at his new house.
The big bash filled with Hollywood celebrities is cut short, however, thanks to an unavoidable interruption: global destruction. With giant fissures and fires consuming all the areas around them, party central is soon cut down to just a few people, including Seth, Jay, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride.
With limited provisions, the six of them are stuck in Franco's home, unsure if they should try to brave the escalating horrors and whether or not the situation is just a regular emergency or something much more irreversible. But as bad as things are outside the stronghold, it may be the nature of their own friendships that could be their demise.
There wouldn't be much point in having these guys play anyone other than themselves, a fact acknowledged by Rogen early on as he admits to playing the same character in every movie. He's the closest thing to normal among all his pals, or the exaggerated facsimiles they portray here.
Baruchel is the buzzkill of the group, whose complaints about having to be in the same room with the folks he avoids like the plague only get greater in quantity and whinier once they're all holed up amid flaming death. His protestations that they're facing Armageddon falls on deaf ears of five dudes who keep deluding themselves into thinking this is only a run-of-the-mill disaster, possibly a riot following a victory by the Lakers.
As for homeowner Franco, the man who barely has time to sleep between achieving multiple graduate degrees, ruining the Oscars and writing for Playboy is more pretentious than ever, more concerned with the aesthetics of his new pad — such as a giant papier-mâché phallus and the kind of bizarre artwork that deserves its own wing in the Met — than the people within it.
Hill, on the other hand, maintains a façade of pure kindness for all his fellow survivors to their faces, but when he's alone with his thoughts, his talk of saving shelter dogs and sharing supplies equally somehow vanishes with scary results. Robinson is a hoot not so much for his ability to keep up with rest of the gang in zingers, but his insistence in always carrying around a personalized hand towel and his shirt with the title of his new song, "TAKE YO PANTIES OFF!!!"
Then there's McBride, who carries over his repellant persona from "Eastbound & Down" as the least popular member of the sextet, quick to waste their precious resources and start fights among the housemates. If you can't count on Kenny Powers to create unnecessary conflict at the end of the world, who else can provide it?
If "Superbad" had been based on the Book of Revelation, this would be the outcome, with certain people ascending skyward, demons roaming the land and a coked-up Michael Cera the first to fall into a pit of hellfire. Rihanna, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart and more must have been pretty good sports to be willing to get killed off after about 10 minutes in this extended version of the short "Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse."
Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg — for whom Baruchel stands in onscreen — make an agreeable debut as directors, holding nothing back with a hybrid raunchy comedy and morality tale. As with most of the movies involving this ensemble, they can turn pretty much anything into an extended, hilarious meta-conversation.
One minute, they're talking at length about who will get to eat the only candy bar in the household, the next McBride and Franco are arguing about the former's overuse of the single nudie magazine. The only time it gets awkward is when this crew of goofballs start to ponder why they weren't among the raptured, giving us an idea of how the "Left Behind" films might have looked if their makers had never cracked open a Bible and wrote their entire script while smoking a joint.
Rather than trying to answer the question of eternal salvation, "This Is the End" sticks to the wheelhouse of its creators by solving such queries as what a no-budget sequel to "Pineapple Express" might have looked like and whether Hermione Granger can wield an ax as well as a magic wand. With the planet scheduled to be annihilated multiple times this year, it's tough to say at this point if this will be the best cinematic rendering of the “End of Days,” but it's certainly one of the funniest of its kind and on top of that, it's undeniably one of the only movies of any type celebrating the guilty pleasure that is the Backstreet Boys.