Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling
Written & Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg (directorial debut for both)
Usually - OK always - the end of the world is not a laughing matter.
Generally speaking, mass destruction, death and chaos isn't necessarily comedic territory, but the apocalypse just so happens to be the backdrop for the funniest film of 2013 thus far, This Is the End (opening today)
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson (The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine), Jonah Hill and Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) all play themselves - or rather, heightened versions of themselves - in this end-of-the-world, stoner-buddy-comedy that doubles also as a very effective disaster movie.
The trend of known actors playing themselves dates back (for me, anyways) to the days of The Larry Sanders Show. There is something inherently funny about watching actors poke fun of themselves and all of the grand things that they take for granted in their lives as American royalty. Often times, these "characters" play themselves as self-absorbed, neurotic jerks, not afraid to shed their likeable public images. This tactic has been used countless times to great effect in shows like Entourage, Extras and Curb Your Enthusiasm (yes I happen to watch a lot of HBO).
This self-portrayal gimmick is played up to new heights - or lows - by the crew of This Is the End. Baruchel is the least famous - a re-occurring joke in the film - and uncomfortable around Rogen's Hollywood pals. Rogen is portrayed as a sort-of Hollywood sell-out. Is Jonah Hill really that nice of a guy? Is Danny McBride really a prick in real life like so many of his on-screen personas, or is Craig Robinson any different from his? Franco takes the prize as the most selfish and materialistic of young stars in all of L.A., which is no small feat. Baruchel - with his Christian Slater voice and his Jeff Goldblum mannerisms - acts somewhat as the central character of the story, the proverbial fish out of water and underdog hero.
When Baruchel comes to visit Rogen in LA, they pig-out on fast food and get stoned, as one would expect. Then Rogen takes his buddy to a party hosted by James Franco, populated by a who's who of young comedians and stars playing themselves, from Mindy Kaling to Jason Segel to Aziz Ansari to Paul Rudd to Emma Watson. Speaking of image-shredding, Michale Cera gets the film's funniest scenes as a coked-up horn-dog of mythic proportions.
It seems to be a typical day in the life of atypical famous people, until a giant crater opens up, fires break out and blue lights start sucking people up into the sky. The six aforementioned stars find themselves barricaded in Franco's fortress-like home, and hilarity ensues.
In a film including humor aimed at the lowest of brows, This Is the End actually has some pretty brilliant stuff in it. Co-written and co-directed by Seth Rogen (along with Evan Goldberg), this is the end of the world as seen through the eyes of a horny 13-year old, who just so happens to be in his 30s.
The self-absorbed actors don't look to make sense of what has happened - or stop to phone their families who have surely been affected - but rather they fight over who should get the only remaining Milky Way candy bar. In fact, the focus of the film seems to always be just off of what it should be on, making the film seem smart and dumb all at once. It should come as no surprise then, when one character is given a chance to have anything - from world peace to a meeting with lost loved ones - and he chooses instead, to take part in a Backstreet Boy reunion.
The apocalypse is taken on in a straight-forward way...this is not Mel Brooks, Monty Python, or Airplane! But at it's heart - and it does have one - This Is the End is a film about friendship, fame and redemption. Oh, and demonic creatures that creep into your room at night and rape you.
If over-the-top, graphic comedy is not your thing, it's unlikely that this film will be up your alley. What could easily be seen as stupid or offensive by many, This Is the End, for others, will be revered as Pot-Smoker's Masterpiece Theater. But you don't have to be a so-called stoner to appreciate the brilliance of the comedy and these specific comedians on display in this film. This may also be the closest thing we ever get to a Pineapple Express sequel, which may be reason enough for some to check this out.
You may leave the theater shaking your head - and there are many moments that will surely cross your "what is acceptable" comedic threshold line, regardless of where that line is for you - but you will have laughed for nearly all of the 107 minutes. In the end, all comedies should be judged on how funny they are, and This is the End is the funniest - and most fearless - film and comedy of the year.
Who knew that the end of world could be so damn entertaining?
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