Friday, June 14, 2013

This is the End - Theatrical Review

Release Date: June 12, 2013

"This is the End" makes the apocalypse seem like a hell of a great time.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: Regal 16 Garden Grove
Time: 7:00 pm June 11, 2013   
Projector Type: Digital 2D  
Film Rating: R   
Film Runtime: 1 hr 59 min
Studio: Sony Pictures

Loves: Celebrities playing exagerrated versions of themselves, end of the world movies
Likes: Then entire cast
Neutral: Spending a little too much time in that house
Hates: Nothing    
Adam Sandler take note: This is how to make a movie with friends and get paid for it

When Jay Baruchel visits his good friend Seth Rogen in L.A., they head over to James Franco's new house to party like there's no tomorrow with a host of other celebrity friends such as Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Craig Robinson, Rihanna and even a coked-out-of-his-mind Michael Cera. The problem is that there really is no tomorrow, as judgement day is nigh. With all of Hollywood and the rest of the world literally in flames, the surviving celebrities hide out in Franco's fortified house in hopes of being rescued while fending off demons, death by thirst and even an axe wielding Emma Watson, all in an attempt to survive the impending apocalypse.

This is the End has all the hallmarks of being the greatest comedy ever created. Using a disaster of biblical proportions as the backdrop for what is essentially a raunchy stoner comedy, featuring a number of talented comedic actors playing themselves, is both simple and ingenious. What the film lacks in narrative and proper pacing, it more than makes up for with the most endlessly depraved, morally bankrupt, self deprecating and insanely clever concept for a comedy to come along in years.

Being a fan of both apocalypse themed films and actors who play themselves would alone make this latest cinematic venture from the Judd Apatow group (sans Apatow himself this time) one of the greatest film ideas ever conceived. But then you add in the fact that they absolutely nailed it, and you also get one of the greatest comedies in recent years, if not of all time. That may sound like impossibly high praise for a film that relies heavily on vulgarities, a surprising amount of gruesome mayhem and plenty of penis jokes, but it meets nearly every expectation one could hope for from such a high concept created by those with such low moral standards.

The key ingredient to all of this is of course the actors. Clearly having a blast playing these highly exaggerated versions of themselves, all of the actors were game for just about anything. It's not even just the principal actors either, everyone appears to have an all-in mentality which punches the absurdity level into overdrive. Seeing Michael Cera bitch about someone stealing his phone while the world burns around him or Christopher Mintz-Plasse's reaction to having cocaine being blown into his face is just the tip of the iceberg.

The core group of friends/actors we spend the majority of the film with are at the heart of what makes everything work. Having worked together on various projects over the course of their careers, it comes as no surprise that all of them share a fantastic amount chemistry with one another. Rogen, Franco, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson and Danny McBride, their interactions are nothing short of inspired bits of lunacy. Whenever they get into these verbal battles that wouldn't be out of place on an elementary school yard (minus the harsh words of course), vulgarities fly that would make even a seasoned s**t talker blush.

Much of the film's humor is working off our preconceived notions of how the Hollywood elite interact socially with one another. The stuff they come up with is brilliant, not only taking into account each actor's history with one another, but also using our own expectations to help define them into these caricatures that have some truth to them, but also a whole lot of make believe. The film almost feels like a piece of fan fiction at times, with all the strange relationships forged between each of them and their individual weird ticks (Seth Rogen's fear of being titty f**ked is a real highlight, as is James Franco's near homo-erotic feelings towards Rogen).

Their collective bickering and backstabbing would be hilarious taken on its own, but add in the end of the world and it takes on a whole new level comedic insanity. When it is discovered that they are in fact dealing with the rapture and God's wrath upon those who are not deemed worthy of being saved (a fact we know from the very outset), the comedy takes a welcome, and possibly controversial, turn into religious territory that elevates all the standard penis jokes about ejaculation and male symbolism, into penis jokes about well hung demons from hell who want to rape them. Sure it's vulgar and petty, but it is also funny as hell.

One of the more frustrating things that has been present in nearly every film with these guys over the years has been an inordinate amount of improv, where the actors would attempt to one up each other with a slew of on-the-spot joke monologues that usually resulted in painfully long scenes with them riffing on a particular subject for far too long. Well, with the exception of one exchange between Franco and McBride (which is destined to become classic), perhaps taking Apatow out of the equation was the solution all along, because whatever they did, it worked. Instead of battling for the spotlight in any given scene, they work together and bounce the jokes quickly and without hesitation off of one another, making for quite possibly the most consistent and leanest bit of comedy they have ever done.

The film also finds a great balance between self parody and a post-apocalyptic comedy that rides a fine line between lampooning the bible and just flat out making fun of themselves. When the group realizes that they could potentially be saved, the lengths they go to in order to secure their souls going to heaven are just plain ridiculous (here's a hint: throwing out random compliments to one another doesn't work). Later in the film when someone becomes possessed, it is responsible for some hilarious sequences that really need to be seen to be believed. Oh, and look out for an extended conversation about the etiquette for masturbating in the modern era and way too many references (both visual and auditory) about male genitalia.

It is difficult to talk about the finer points of the film without going into some pretty heavy spoilers, which you don't want to know, trust me. So instead of that we are just going wrap things up here. Is This is the End the best comedy ever made? No, but it sure comes close. Most of the jokes stick their landing and will have you howling in laughter well after it is all over, but some feel a little late to the party (Gangnam Style is so last year). Using themselves as the butt of the joke, Seth Rogen and company have forged a wholly unique and inspired apocalyptic comedy that is, excuse the language, piss-your-pants-funny. The end is nigh and this is one apocalypse you don't want to miss out on.





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