This is the End (2013)
★★★ / ★★★★
Seth Rogen is ecstatic that Jay Baruchel is visiting L.A. for the weekend because the two of them have not seen each other for about a year. Though Seth knows that Jay is not that fond of Hollywood and its stereotypical lifestyle, he thinks that Jay’s opinion can be changed by allowing him to meet people who Seth thinks are pretty cool. What better way to socialize than to attend James Franco’s wild party. The fun screeches to a halt, however, when a massive earthquake shakes the city and kills the guests–some of whom are very familiar faces either on television or film.
“This is the End,” based on the screenplay as well as directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, heavily depends upon celebrity power in order to amuse. Though it is not consistently funny, losing its way somewhere in the middle, I found myself unable to contain my laughter when the jokes do work.
The picture’s most crucial limitation is the writers’ decision to allow its six central characters to stay in Franco’s house for too long. While the early scenes are effective because we are bombarded by one performer after another, the novelty wears off as the material gets deeper into the survival. Although part of it is amusing because Rogen, Baruchel, and their friends have no useful skill whatsoever (other than being funny), spending so much time in that nicely decorated home is no fun; there are plenty of dirty jokes and bro-mantic lines but the plot fails to move forward.
When it experiments, it shines. It can focused on the actors trying to survive another day but it just has to be creative. For instance, there are a few scenes that are very reminiscent of Frank Darabont’s “The Mist.” Despite being more comedic than suspenseful, I always feel uneasy whenever a character has ropes tied around his torso and goes toward a place where everybody knows, including himself, he should not be heading.
In addition, the last fifteen minutes feel fresh because the characters are finally given a chance to roam outside where anything can happen. The most successful comedies maintain an element of surprise–whether it be situational, within the dialogue, or through subtle character development. Here, the writing is not very deep–and does not need to be–and so, in a way, the amusement inspired by situations should be exaggerated even further. A good twenty to thirty minutes of the middle portion rests on its laurels.
I enjoyed that everyone is willing to poke fun of themselves. Jonah Hill giving himself a not-so-subtle pat on the back for being considered as a “serious actor” after having co-starred in Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” is a laugh riot. Craig Robinson, meanwhile, capitalizes on his familiar nice-guy persona. I wished the screenwriters had given him a more dramatic angle to play with–again, an element of surprise–because he seems to be up for it. Still, no one tops Michael Cera in playing a cocaine-snorting firecracker. I want to see cokehead Cera starring in his own movie.
Ultimately, inconsistency prevents “This is the End” from becoming more than good entertainment. It will likely hold up on repeated viewings but keep the remote in hand in order to fast-forward through the slower, lumbering, less inspired digressions.