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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.63%
Worth A Look53.66%
Average: 24.39%
Pretty Bad: 4.88%
Total Crap: 2.44%

5 reviews, 11 user ratings

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This is the End
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brett Gallman

5 stars

In a cinematic landscape preoccupied with the apocalypse, “This is the End” throws down the gauntlet with a farce so outrageous that it needs a disaster movie conceit typically reserved for summer tent-poles to support it. In their directorial debut, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have mixed their own brand of bromance-fuelled frat humor with the DNA of Irwin Allen and Sam Raimi to create a demented hellspawn with big balls, brains, and heart. Never has Armageddon felt more like a kegger, a sleepover, and a horror movie all rolled into one.

Its concept would be the stuff of vanity projects if it didn’t immediately allow audiences in the joke. A cold open finds Seth Rogen collecting his buddy Jay Baruchel at an airport, where he’s recognized by some in the crowd, including a paparazzi type that wonders why Rogen plays the same character in every movie, a moment that slyly winks at the notion that he and his buddies have essentially been “playing themselves” for the past half-decade or so. For whatever reason, that’s a go-to criticism for those who are unaware of how comedic shtick works, and “This is the End” is (among other things) a joyous middle finger to the idea that these guys should be playing anyone but their types until the end of time (okay, so maybe it is a very successful vanity project).

After Seth and Jay indulge in an afternoon of video games and pot-smoking, the former talks the latter into reluctantly attending James Franco’s house-warming party, which has gathered an assortment of Hollywood personalities. Most of them are also Seth’s friends, and they’re remarkably familiar: Franco is kind of a smug weirdo, Jonah Hill is a two-faced nice guy, while Craig Robinson is…well, he’s Craig Robinson wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Take Yo Panties Off.” He also sings a song with the same refrain and carries a personalized towel with him throughout the movie. Other celebrities flow through the house for cameo appearances, and one of the best early jokes reveals that Michael Cera hasn’t been playing himself all of this time after all. In reality, he’s a scuzzy, coked-up sex maniac, and Cera throws himself into it with complete abandon.

The scene is too off-putting for Jay, who considers the other members of this new Frat Pack to be acquaintances more than anything, so he’s looking to duck out as soon as possible. Before that opportunity arises, all hell breaks loose, quite literally. A sinkhole opens up and swallows many of the party-goers, while the rest flee in horror at a chaotic scene that leaves blood and guts strewn all over the place. It’d be the wildly funny and gory punchline to a “Funny or Die” sketch (which is essentially how the project began its life—as an internet short titled “Seth and Jay vs. The Apocalypse”).

It’s only the beginning of the end here, as Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, and Robinson hole up inside the house and begin sorting out the situation. With this particular group of personalities, it’s not surprising that “This is the End” becomes one the most uproarious post-apocalyptic survival movies ever. The film is wildly funny and perhaps unfairly so; most directors would love to have just a couple of these guys at their disposal, much less every single one of them. Predictably, a lot of material is flung against the wall: puerile gags, sophomoric antics, pitch-black comedy, petty drama, and profound self-discoveries. Impossibly, nearly all of it sticks, especially the relentless pile of jokes and witty dialogue. This is the type of film that’ll demand repeat viewings because your laughter will drown out a lot of the material the first time around.

If the film is an embarrassment of riches when it’s centered on this quintet, then it’s just plain showing off once Danny McBride strolls in. Playing a supercharged riff on his loveable idiot savant persona, he doesn’t just threaten to steal the show—he threatens to scoop it up into his hands, light it on fire, and then piss on the ashes. It would take quite a talent to pull a film from under the rug of a cast like this, and McBride is quite possibly the funniest man on the planet right now.

His astounding entrance here perfectly captures the essence of the overgrown manchild: it’s crass but impish, abhorrent but irresistible, and done with a magnetic swagger. As the film progresses, McBride becomes the agent of chaos and takes this shtick to its logical, maniacal extension, as he morphs from Kenny Powers to the Lord Humungus. That he remains so likeable even as he’s adorned with a crown of skulls speaks to the incredible good will that he (and the rest of the cast) has amassed over the years.

But “This is the End” doesn’t just coast on that good will; this isn’t just a bunch of guys inviting us over for a glorified wrap party to celebrate their success. For one thing, there’s too much good-natured self-ribbing here that includes pot-shots at their more ignominious efforts (I did bristle at the undeserved inclusion of the brilliant “Your Highness,” though), and no one is afraid to poke at their own façade. Once the nature of this apocalypse comes into focus, they’re forced to confront their own shortcomings as human beings, so this is a vanity project that satirizes Hollywood vanity.

Rogen and Goldberg have also crafted a real goddamn movie out of this premise, one that blends and spoofs genres with ease. Primarily, it’s one of the best horror-comedies in years. During their careers, this gang hasn’t been shy about acknowledging their influences, and “This is the End” literally wears its heart on its sleeve the moment Baruchel enters wearing a “Zombie 2” T-shirt. Lucio Fulci himself would likely approve the splattery effects work, but the film doesn’t just lean on outrageous gore since its directors know the beats of the various genres and escalate accordingly.

That’s no small feat—again, this is a film whose first act closes with a deranged Grand Guignol skit featuring smashed skulls, impalements, and a giant hell pit. From there, it becomes something of a monster movie with demons roaming about the fiery wasteland, and the film finds a nice balance between its monster movie beats and its more non sequitur asides (there’s an interlude featuring Emma Watson that’s riotously funny despite its squirmy subject matter).

Beneath the sheer insanity lies a resonant through-line that explores the evolving nature of friendships. After sifting through the demonic possessions, impromptu sequel productions (we’ll never need “Pineapple Express 2” after this), and masturbation debates, you’ll discover that “This is the End” is a coming-of-age film that serves as the spiritual successor to “Superbad.” If that film captured the anxiety of a friendship on the verge of change, then “This is the End” captures the breakdown in progress, as Seth and Jay discover that they’ve grown apart due to their different approaches to success. Seth has gone full Hollywood, while Jay is content to stay home in Canada, and the two encounter some personal demons along the way.

The film isn’t quite an allegory, but playing this conflict against an apocalyptic backdrop captures the turmoil of continuing to grow up. Friendship has been a recurring theme among this bunch, and this film essentially trumpets the importance of seeking a bro for the end of the world. So many raucous comedies miss this element, but Rogen and Goldberg smartly keep the heart beating at the center of this insanity. “This is the End” is the rare farce that’s also concerned with essential truths about people and relationships; even as the absurd situations mount, the film never forgets the central humanity underlying it all.

The unfolding absurdity eventually causes the film to careen so wildly that it also inspires the sort of awe reserved for big-budget blockbusters. There’s irreverent and then there’s “This is the End,” which features a climax so outrageous that it makes one wish they could have been a fly on the wall during Rogen and Goldberg’s pitch. Kudos to the suits at Columbia, though—obviously, they sensed the mad genius at play here and allowed their talent to craft an infectious, daring movie that’s unafraid to slaughter sacred cows, lap up their blood, and then laugh about it.

“This is the End” feels like a watershed moment. At worst, it’s the culmination of an incredible run for everyone involved, who will now go on to do some victory laps; at best, we might again be looking back in awe a few years from now if these guys manage to somehow top it. Speaking of sacred cows and watershed moments: I keep coming back to “Ghostbusters” here. I’m not about to canonize “This is the End” on that level just yet, but it feels like this generation’s equivalent given its gathering of elite comedic talent and its genre melding. If nothing else, its title could also refer to the incessant rumors surrounding “Ghostbusters 3,” a project that feels wholly perfunctory in the wake of this.

While “This is the End” hints at some kind of finality, it’s more of an affirmation for this bunch—their various shticks, their preoccupations, and their sheer commitment to each other. For a film centered on upheaval, it sure leaves you hoping that these guys never, ever change.

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originally posted: 06/11/13 13:52:45
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell very funny forget the haters 4 stars
7/07/14 KingNeutron Better than expected - and the end makes you think 4 stars
12/30/13 Cleve Absolute POS - worse than TV comedies 1 stars
11/01/13 mr.mike It ran 100 minutes. It seemed like 100 days. 2 stars
10/16/13 Carl Well done fun film very funny. 4 stars
9/15/13 Langano Doesn't live up to the hype. 3 stars
7/11/13 Charles Kill It was pretty flawless for what it was the first time I watched...didn't last. 4 stars
6/19/13 Elizabeth Entertaining in a wacky, stupid way. One great cameo. 3 stars
6/17/13 Cornholio Could've been worse seeing how Rogen is a chode 3 stars
6/13/13 Marty Humble funny characters but the humor doesn't set itself apart from other comedies. Fun tho 3 stars
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  12-Jun-2013 (R)
  DVD: 01-Oct-2013

  28-Jun-2013 (15)

  04-Jul-2013 (MA)
  DVD: 01-Oct-2013

Directed by
  Evan Goldberg
  Seth Rogen

Written by
  Evan Goldberg
  Seth Rogen

  Jonah Hill
  James Franco
  Seth Rogen
  Jay Baruchel
  Danny McBride
  Craig Robinson

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