Title: This is the End
Year: 2013
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Screenwriters: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen

There is considerable wit and charm on display in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End, along with insane levels of arrogance. It is the logical conclusion of the breed of comedy, which Rogen himself helped popularize, where the shtick and improvisation of a funny group of actors hanging out with each other is loosely edited into something resembling a story. This film dispenses with even the pretense of being or doing anything else.  Its stars – including Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Michael Cera – all play themselves, or more accurately “themselves,” facing a broadly comic end-of-the-world scenario after a party at James Franco’s house. They even insist on repeatedly calling each other by their first and last names, cheerfully announcing the arrival of each successive celebrity: “Hey look, it’s Emma Watson!”

The movie has plenty of laughs – this is a funny group of guys. (With the exception of an appearance by Watson, who immediately becomes the target of an extended rape joke, it’s strictly a boys’ club.)  Rogen and Goldberg have a flair for non sequitur surrealism (look for the paintings adorning James Franco’s sprawling bachelor pad) and gags that slowly build to an abrupt and surprising conclusion (e.g. the second time they draw straws for an unpleasant task). And there’s just something about Craig Robinson loudly and adamantly refusing to pull Aziz Anzari out of a flaming sinkhole.

And yet at 106 minutes, This is the End is also kind of excruciating. So much of it hinges on our presumed fascination with these actors playing with their personas in trivial, sometimes stupid ways. Jonah Hill features prominently in the film, for example, but his character’s whole raison d’etre is to tweak Hill’s penchant for playing characters who are abrasive and profane by being ingenuous and sweet. McBride and Franco at one point engage in an endless screaming match about the appropriateness of jerking off on one of Franco’s prized hard-copy porn magazines, evidently just to see how much rampant idiocy they can subject “themselves” to on screen. There are long discussions about potential premises for a Pineapple Express sequel, which assume that we can recall the plot and characters from that unmemorable five year-old stoner flick. And on and on. Actors who appear briefly as quick-hit parodies of themselves – most prominently a coked-out Michael Cera – fare better. The main cast seems consumed with finding the limits of what they can get away with, to wildly mixed results.

All credit to Rogen and Goldberg for valiantly attempting to maintain an emotional throughline during all this nonsense, involving Jay Baruchel’s reluctance to hang out with his old buddy Rogen’s new superstar friends. And I can only tip my hat to the last two minutes of the film, which unleash a surprise so bizarre that it’s almost worth sometimes-chuckling, sometimes-slogging through the preceding hour-forty-five just to get there. On the whole, This is the End is a weird, amusing special-interest folly – a public playground for a bunch of guys who I guess have earned some cinephile indulgence.

Eugene Novikov

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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