Great humor in this end of the world satireMovie Review Thursday, June 20th, 2013
This Is the End
Usually, when Hollywood tackles the end of the world we get giant sci-fi epics focusing on teams of either super-heroes or super-heroic soldiers making the planet’s last ditch effort to stave off oblivion. Whether the end comes in the form of asteroids (Armageddon, Deep Impact), aliens (Independence Day, War of the Worlds), robots (Terminator, Battlestar Gallactica), environmental disaster (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012), or, commonly now, zombies (Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombieland, The Walking Dead, World War Z), there’s usually just lot of armed survivors running, shooting and exploding. When Hollywood goes small, focusing on anti-heroes and incompetents, like with last year’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the plot of which is described rather exactly by the title, the result has often been banal and depressing.
After seeing Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End, I know this doesn’t have to be the case, because it is not only one of the funniest movies and one of the best Hollywood satires in recent memory, but it’s also, surprisingly, about something: friendship.
The movie begins with Seth Rogen meeting Jay Baruchel at the airport in Los Angeles, hanging out playing video games and smoking weed, and then, against Jay’s wishes, going to a party at James Franco’s house.
Jay doesn’t want to go because the party will be full of people he doesn’t like, such as Jonah Hill, who he loathes, or people he doesn’t know, such as Franco, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera. By the way, all of these actors play themselves in the movie. During the party, Jay gets more and more annoyed by the various Hollywoody behaviors, from Franco’s pretentiousness, Jonah’s fake nice-ness and Cera’s coked-up debauchery.
When he and Seth go to a convenience store to buy cigarettes, they fight about the party and Jay being a stick-in-the-mud, and then the apocalypse comes. Good people are sucked into heaven by blue light, and everyone else freaks out as fires rage, earthquakes rumble and sink holes appear sucking people into hell. Most of the people at Franco’s party die that way – including several of your favorite celebrities – and only Jay, Seth, Jonah, Franco, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride survive. They are all holed up in Franco’s mansion, where they fight about food, water, whether or not it really is the apocalypse and who of them is actually a good friend.
Since all of the actors are playing versions of themselves, they are not only fantastic but great sports, because Rogen and Goldberg’s script viciously lampoons all of them. Both Rogen and Robinson are wimps, Baruchel is a holier-than-thou crank, Franco is absurdly self-centered, Hill is secretly evil and McBride is the horrible douche that he has played so well so many times.
Most of the humor revolves around the five of them arguing, then getting into slapstick physical altercations, and, in lighter moments, telling stories about what they’ve done with other celebrities.
Many of the jokes tend to be so delightfully filthy that they are not repeatable in a respectable newspaper. But, wow, are they funny, as well as residing on the last stop of the train to Wrongville.
The humor is centered usually on these men’s fears of emasculation, and while that often involves accusations of homosexual behavior, this is a kinder, gentler gay panic; the nastier the gay joke, the more likely that person telling it will not be saved by the blue light.
The good guys are the guys who can joke with their friends and stay friends, through forgiveness and love and respect. And the reward, according to This Is the End, is pretty fantastic.
This Is the End
Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and James Franco
Rated R, very, very R
At your local multiplex
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