This Is The End starts off as an incredibly clever celebrity satire.This Is The End starts off as an incredibly clever celebrity satire. Seth Rogen, also the co-director and writer of the film, plays Seth Rogen, befuddled stoner who plays the same role in every movie. He drags his friend Jay Baruchel to a party at pretentious artist James Franco’s house. Jay hates Jonah Hill’s ingratiating attempts at friendliness, argues against accusations of hipsterdom with Craig Robinson and Emma Watson, and finds a coked-out Michael Cera in situations he never wished to see. It’s kind of amazing seeing all these famous actors mocking themselves, never sure exactly how much is an act and how much is revealing actual interpersonal issues this group has. Then the Apocalypse happens, and the movie gets kind of stupid.Then the Apocalypse happens, and the movie gets kind of stupid. There’s still funny scenes after this point, but they tend to be the more down-to-Earth character-based ones as opposed to the silliness of the plot. Of the Apocalypse plot stuff there were three laugh-out-loud moments for me (one involving Michael Cera, one with Channing Tatum, and one with the Backstreet Boys), but the rest of it overshadowed what was the first act’s strength: the personalities. It would have been something to see these outrageous comic personalities dealing with a more realistic apocalypse. However, since the movie’s inclination was to go broad and ridiculous with its story, I can think of two ways it could have approached the same material and made it work better. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s palate for the end of the world is boringly limited to varying shades of orange and grey.The first way would be to go all-out stylistically. Go for eye-candy, action, suspense, visual gags; make it, if not constantly funny, consistently fun to watch. This would require Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to be better directors than they seem to be. Their palate for the end of the world is boringly limited to varying shades of orange and grey, shot too dark to make out clearly much of the time. Their special effects are cheap, which is understandable, but rather than being artistic and charming in a Michel Gondry sort of way, they more closely resemble the artless CG of a bad ‘90s movie. Maybe Gondry could have made a better movie out of Rogen and Goldberg’s script, if he could accept their ribbing of his Green Hornet flop, or perhaps Edgar Wright, who has already mixed comedy with stylish apocalyptic action in Shaun of the Dead… And in fact Wright’s making yet another apocalypse comedy, The World’s End, coming out in August, so in only a couple months we can make direct comparisons. This is the End could have been one of the most thought-provoking comedies in a long time.The second route would be to think more about what their story means. Here you have a Jewish comedian writing, directing, and playing himself in a movie which posits the Christian Book of Revelations as truth. That’s material for a wild thought experiment or religious satire, but only a single gag comes of it: at one point, Rogen exclaims “Jesus ****ing Christ” and gets told not to take the Lord’s name in vain, confusing him since he never considered Jesus to be the Lord, yet somehow that’s the extent of the Jewish response to a world where Christianity’s been proven correct. Why isn’t he questioning anything else faith-wise while he casually accepts Revelations is happening around him? Kevin Smith’s not any better a director than Rogen and Goldberg from a technical point of view, but his provocative approach to Catholicism in Dogma meshed successfully with his frat-boy humor. Had This is the End taken a similar approach to the conflict between Judaism and Christianity, it could have been one of the most thought-provoking comedies in a long time. In fact, according to interviews with Rogen and Goldberg, that was what it was going to be in the first place. I guess they backed down out of fear of controversy, but when you’re making jokes about rape, cannibalism, racism, sadomasochism, explosive semen, and giant demonic penises, you don’t really have that much of a right to be trying to “avoid controversy.” Maybe even just a bit of editing would make a more solidly enjoyable movie.Maybe even just a bit of editing would make a more solidly enjoyable movie. Judd Apatow’s not involved in this movie despite his connections to its stars, but Rogen and Goldberg seem to have taken on his bad habit of dragging out runtimes and stretching material thin (disappointing, given that they wrote the script to the best-paced Apatow movie, Superbad). As it is, there’s enough material that works to balance out the stuff that doesn’t, but it could have been so much more interesting than it turned out.
This Is The End opens nationwide on June 12th.