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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: This Is The End

The "genre comedy" is one that's had great success over the past few years, particularly critically. Films like "Shaun of the Dead" and "Cabin in the Woods" have found their way into many a collection (including mine) as standard bearers for smarter comedy that plays with familiar themes outside of the humorous. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg tried their hand at this with 2008's "The Pineapple Express", a moderate success that a number of viewers grafted onto. I was less of a fan, but the effort being exerted by the team was noble. With "This is the End", Rogen and Goldberg reunite to give their spin on The Rapture and create something that falls short of the brilliance of their "Superbad" but is a step up from "Pineapple..." and world's beyond "Green Hornet". Still, it has problems that slightly eat away at the smart conceptual core.

"This is the End" centers on Rogen and Jay Baruchel, playing slightly off-center versions of themselves, with Baruchel returning from Canada to visit Rogen. Rogen convinces him to come to a party at James Franco's house which is loaded with celebrities like Aziz Ansari, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, and Michael Cera. Suddenly, the end of the world comes, but no one is the wiser as none of them were spirited off to heaven. Once the demons, and fire and brimstone come, only six of the party members are left to survive, not only the chaos outside of the house, but also each other.

There's a sense of outright fun in the goings on provided by everyone involved. The cast is clearly very comfortable with each other and their chemistry is wonderful as always. One gets the sense that making this film was alot of fun and everyone in the core cast gets a nice chance to shine. For the first half of the film, everyone plays a basically typecast version of the kind of guy they always play in their movies; Rogen, in particular, gets a chance to riff off aspects of his public persona with his consistent reliance on recreational drugs and the insider humor are some of the better bits. Of particular note is Michael Cera playing a coked out, sex crazed fiend blowing cocaine into Christopher Mintz-Plasse's face and Jonah Hill, having been nominated for an Academy Award, becoming a pseudo-humanitarian. 

The first hour of "This Is The End" is where the film peaks, not only through the surprise "who might show up next?" cameos, but also the rather hard-hitting special effects. The chaos occurring around L.A. is a fairly impressive spectacle for the first time directing team and the goings-on within the house really brings out the more humorous moments during the initial goings-on. The survivors fight over who will eat a Milky Way candy bar, film a hand-held camera sequel to "The Pineapple Express", and banter in their always zippy improvised fashion. There's alot of cleverness in the idea of a bromance film that is somewhat antibromance, and the dissolving relationships between the principals reflects that, even at the extreme level it eventually gets taken to.

The concept is so strong, everything else that would make the movie work takes a bit of a backseat, including enough plot to fill out the running time. By the second hour, exhaustion begins to set in and there's alot of running around type filler. There's still the occasional punctuated funny moment, but the humor becomes less sharp and more obvious, and the level of dick jokes begin to increase substantially over the much funnier, near parody, insider stuff of the previous scenes. The CGI also becomes less convincing here, particularly during the "Ghostbusters"-like moments of being chased around corridors by a hell-hound. The repetition of the final act grates a bit as well, though McBride is involved in a surprising moment that makes you admire the filmmakers and actors willingness to "go there".

In all, "This Is The End" is an often funny film that could have used just a little bit more judicious editing, or a slight refocus in its second half to concentrate more on the interesting subversion of the "man-child" personas that Rogen and Goldberg were digging into. By the end, I came away thinking I enjoyed the film, but I can't really say I loved it, as the proceedings were stretched to their breaking point. On the other hand, it's at least more timely and funnier than "The Internship". While "Best Comedy of 2013" is still likely reserved for a future release, I wouldn't be surprised if "This Is The End" is a solid contender. There's just enough heart and invention here for it to be worth a viewing, and given the state of comedies released this year, that's good enough.

I give it a B.
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