Oh, What a Lovely Apocalypse! “This Is the End” is Brilliant, Except When It’s Not

This Is the End

This is the End (Evan Goldberg/Seth Rogen, 2013)

Oh, what fun I had for the first thirty minutes of this film! Co-written, co-directed, and starring Seth Rogen, This Is the End takes place in a hilarious sketch-comedy version of Hollywood, with all of the actors playing spoofs of themselves as the world around them burns to a hellish crisp. The Rapture is upon them, and man, what a bummer that is, since the party was like, on, man. Or, as Jonah Hill would say, it was tight.

The (very loose) story goes like this: Jay Baruchel (who? well, yeah – that’s kind of part of the joke) flies into L.A., where his best bud Seth Rogen picks him up at the airport. They go to Seth’s place, get high, then head on over to a party at James Franco’s place. Jay is really just Seth’s friend, and people like Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson – Seth’s L.A. posse – exist outside of Jay’s comfort zone. But, like I said, the party is on, and folks like Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna and Emma Watson, among others, are kicking it in Franco’s lavish palace. Cera’s really kicking it, actually, doing blow off of Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s mustache and getting himself blown in the bathroom. That’s right – it’s tight.

But then, suddenly, blue beams shoot down from the sky, yanking a select few up into the clouds, while the remaining evil souls (all of our cinematic friends) are left behind to battle earthquakes, sinkholes, fires, and demons. Soon, it’s just Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson, and a late arrival, Danny McBride, left in the collapsing party palace, and their days are numbered. With food and drink limited, the world about to end, and all of them obviously condemned to eternal hellfire, they . . . riff. I mean, what would you expect them to do? These are, like, the kings of self-referential improvisatory gross-out humor . . . And so the movie goes. I won’t give all the gags away, except to drop a tantalizing hint that all of you Backstreet Boys fans have something to look forward to.

If you like these guys, and like male-centered comedy with many penis and ejaculation jokes, then this movie is for you, all the way through. If, like me, you occasionally like your humor to be about more than James Franco and Danny McBride yelling at each other about when and where it’s appropriate to spray one’s sperm, then you may begin to tire out about an hour in (strangely, A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, of that scene, that it made him laugh “louder than just about anything since the naked wrestling match in ‘Borat'” – to each their own, I guess). Somewhere in the last ten years, I must have missed the memo that went out to my fellow citizens, explaining how constant uses of obscenities – for their own sake – and genitalia jokes – stale when I was 12 – are the new height of comedy writing. Or maybe I’m just an outlier.

Whatever the cause of my gross-out fatigue, I loved the opening and closing of this film – the premise of the narrative is really brilliant – and can still recommend it, with the caveat that if you’re like me, you will find yourself annoyed for a while. But if what I’ve described as a negative is your idea of heaven, then it’s blue beams for you (but please spare me the hellfire).


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