30 June 2013

Movie Review: This is the End


B

This is the End
2013, 107mins, 15
Director (s): Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg 
Writer (s): Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg 
Cast includes: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill
UK Release Date: 28th June 2013

The prospect of entertainers farting around together with mega-budgets for their own personal gratification generally doesn’t encourage pulsating cinema. One only has to cast their mind back three years to recall “Grown Ups” – a picture that allowed Adam Sandler and his cronies to pilfer money from your pocket to fund an unofficial holiday – delivering approximately 1.5 laughs in compensation. “This is the End” sees a variety of comic stars playing themselves (hell, at least they’re upfront about it!), and subsequently pitting these exaggerated caricatures against impending Armageddon. Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the picture is uneven and not without some indulgences, but on the flipside it’s also energetically conceived, often funny and gamely acted. I suppose there’s an inherent amount of arrogance in any project that assumes its creators are culturally important enough to play themselves within the confines of a fictitious narrative, but heck, I’m willing to forgive the trespass if the end product is sufficiently enjoyable. In the case of “This is the End” the film-makers comfortably make such a cut.

Jay Baruchel is travelling to L.A in order to spend some time with buddy Seth Rogen, the two having drifted apart since Rogen’s adoption of the VIP lifestyle. After smoking some joints and chilling; Seth coerces a reluctant Jay along to hang with his Hollywood acquaintances at James Franco’s luxurious abode, where a vast party is in swing. Jay is quickly abandoned in favour of the host and various other celebrity icons, leaving him further disenchanted with the charade. However as Seth and Jay’s relationship hits boiling point, the apocalypse arrives, leaving the land scorched and plagued by wrathful demons. Locked alongside Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Franco and a monstrous Danny McBride within the artsy mansion, Seth and Jay begin to iron out their issues, just in time for the world’s implosion.

Kudos must be supplied to the key participants, all of whom fidget loosely and goofily with their media personas. Franco gives his obtuse pseudo-intellectual side a solid spin, McBride goes above and beyond in his depiction of raw douchebaggery and Jonah Hill supplies a healthy dollop of glee portraying a faux-tolerant egomaniac. It’s Rogen and Baruchel who stay grounded during “This is the End” supplying it with a surprising dosage of bromantic sweetness, although Craig Robinson also brings home the film’s message (essentially don’t be a prick) with levity and good humour. Everybody sticks to their angle religiously, but as a gang they have faultless chemistry and bounce off each other with rhythm and precise timing. It’s a joy to watch these cartoony cut-outs duke it out, with a host of funky cameos (Emma Watson, Michael Cera and Channing Tatum the highlights) helping to populate the big screen party with fabulous support.

“This is the End” represents the feature directorial salute from the Rogen/Goldberg outfit, having previously scripted “Pineapple Express” and “Superbad” together. It probably helps that they have a bevy of familiar talent surrounding them, but the pair still infuse proceedings with surprising finesse, handling the jokes, narrative and visual tone with balanced confidence. “This is the End” attains a blockbusting aesthetic without sacrificing its jovial origins, quite a feat to master in any directorial foray, much less a debut. There’s no justifiable reason for the film to exceed 90 minutes, yet it somehow ratchets up to a stocky 107, leaving some of the middle act to lull amid the ingenious fits of crudity that adorn the picture. A tighter edit would've improved the laugh ratio (which is still pretty respectable) and helped subtract some of the movie’s vainer moments. There’s an inspired running gag concerning a “Pineapple Express” sequel which elicits bountiful guffaws, but call-backs to “The Green Hornet” and James Franco’s lesser known past professional exploits are unnecessary, no matter how self-deprecating they may be.

Goldberg and Rogen undoubtedly lean heavily on pop cultural influence, but at times they attain a sort of nerd-vana likely to throw portions of the audience into rapturous ecstasy. An ingenious riff on “Rosemary’s Baby” is particularly memorable and the various celebs that feature in tinier parts are often handed terrific dialogue to fiddle around with. Recent satirical crap-piles have utilized a recognisable face as a joke in itself, something Rogen and Goldberg never do, ensuring the performer is only ever a catalyst for their crude wit. They never use fame as a substitute for mirth, which is refreshing.

The film actually crescendos on a touching note, whilst seamlessly bringing cannibals, gimps and CGI behemoths smoothly into the action. It’s an unapologetically silly diversion, but one that delivers a riotous, likeable if not moderately bloated cinematic treat. “This is the End” will almost certainly spell no such thing for the careers of Rogen and Goldberg anyway. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013

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