“Killer tornadoes, earthquakes, sinkholes, tsunamis, and all manner of scary stuff happening. It’s looking a little apocalyptic out there.” So began last week’s review of ‘After Earth.’ For ‘This is the End,’ we’re killing two hooks with one hook. Recycling is great.
Seth Rogen (erstwhile everyman-star of most Judd Appatow movies) first-time directs. When you put the talent of young Hollywood’s Appatow frat-house clown-crew together with lots of free reign to improvise, the ensuing hilarious gross-out factor is prodigious.
However, these are also sensitive, intelligent, and curious-minded artists who want to use their art and craft for the betterment of humanity, and, it turns out, are quite insightful. This is a unique, funny, bizarre, thoroughly disgusting, yet rather important movie for these times. ‘This is the End’ is somewhat like the lotus flower; it grows out of the mud and shows how humans might go to heaven!
All actors play themselves, with slight fictional twists. James Franco’s having a celebrity party, there’s lots of decadence, the funniest bit being the normally meek Michael Cera playing an intolerably entitled diva-esque version of himself, and ending up on the receiving end of some very funny well-timed come-uppance from real-life diva Rihanna.
Out of nowhere, the Apocalypse hits! As mentioned—earthquakes and sinkholes. Demons too! It’s pretty much chaos and survival mode from there on in. They freak out; they ration food and water, they put duct-tape on gaping concrete cracks.
Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) overhearing and misinterpreting a moral debate among the boys as to how they should conduct themselves in her presence cracks Rogen in the face with an axe-handle and escapes the house to brave the “zombie invasion” by herself. After which Danny McBride morosely quips, “Hermione stole all our stuff.”
James Franco reprises his “127 Hours” video-diary, they debate the origin of the word “Sinkhole-de Mayo,” and shoot tiny sequels to their own movies. There are theological debates. Like how the Holy Trinity is kind of like Neapolitan ice cream. “Revelations” is read, the “Red Dragon” is discussed, as well as the “The Rapture,” and how “the worthy will ascend to heaven.” Jay Baruchel appears to be doing a sly, dead-on Christian Slater impression throughout.
Danny McBride gets voted out of the house for drinking more than his share of the water, but only after one of the funniest (and filthiest) screaming matches (with James Franco) in recent movie history. Don’t try drinking your movie beverage during this scene.
While the humor-level with this crew was to be expected, the horror-movie timing was not. There’s a horror-hysterical bit entitled, “The Exorcism of Jonah Hill,” where possessed Hill is ministered to by crucifix-wielding Baruchel. The crucifix, being made out of a cooking spoon and spatula, is not effective. When Hill, in full-on bass-distortion demon-voice, suddenly veers off into valley dude-speak, you may suddenly exhale your beverage through your nose.
Joseph Campbell discovered that all human stories are exactly the same the world over. Catholics call it “The Rapture,” while Eastern practices call it “Ascending in Broad Daylight.” Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck—it’s a duck! With all the killer tornados, earthquakes, sinkhole-de-Mayos, and tsunamis these days, common sense says maybe we better pay attention to this stuff!
In the mean time, if you want a funny “Cliff Notes” version of the Apocalypse, where the conclusion is that, “If we’re nice to each other we can get sucked up to heaven,” where heaven features Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 hit song, “Spirit in the Sky,” as well as boy-bands of yesteryear—this is your summertime Apocalypse not-really-a-spoof of choice!
Directors: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Emma Watson
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes