Movie Review: This Is the End
By Matthew Huntley
June 25, 2013
Given its premise, I figured This is the End would be nothing more than a one-joke wonder about a bunch of male actors playing themselves and lampooning their own celebrity. As it turns out, it’s actually a two-joke wonder. Along with its self-awareness and mockery, the movie is about the actors’ obsession with penises and their role in urination and masturbation. I guess I just have to accept the fact there will always be comedians who are fascinated with the male appendage. If only I found it as funny as they do; maybe then I’d be praising This is the End a whole lot more.
The movie stars an assortment of “who’s who” among male actors from the Judd Apatow generation (essentially 2005 and beyond). In fact, I’m surprised Apatow didn’t play a role in the production himself, or at least make a cameo. Alphabetically, they are: Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Seth Rogen, the latter of whom co-wrote and directed with Evan Goldberg (Superbad). Each man plays himself, although if you’re familiar with the actors’ repertoires, the difference between their character-based roles and these roles aren’t all that different, which is one of the running jokes throughout the movie. The question becomes whether we should even consider these guys “actors” in the first place. Regardless, they’re not ashamed to admit they’re “paid handsomely” for what they do.
On a random night in Los Angeles, James Franco hosts a huge party at his mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Among his celebrity guests are Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari and Kevin Hart. Suddenly, there’s an earthquake and giant sinkholes start sucking all the sinful people into the ground as fire shoots from the sky.
Some lucky people, particularly non-celebrities, are saved and beamed into Heaven by a glowing blue light, but not our main guys. Baruchel, who admits he never liked L.A., infers it’s the apocalypse and the time has come for him and his friends to be judged. Boarding themselves up in Franco’s house, they’re left to their own undoing and madness with limited supplies of food and water. It’s just a matter of time before they start to turn on one another or die of thirst and starvation. Another option is they could be raped or eaten by demons — whatever comes first.
It’s not that This is the End doesn’t have a promising concept, but Rogen and Goldberg never take it beyond that — a concept. They seem to think their setup is enough and the movie can ride this wave from beginning to end. But what they don’t understand is they still have to tell a story and do something with these characters besides have them remind us over and over again who they are and what they do for a living. For me, it wasn’t enough they deliberated over a Milky Way, made home movies or drank their own urine. Instead of being a full-fledged movie, This is the End feels more like an extended pitch for a movie without a realized payoff.
There are some funny moments to be sure, including the sheer ridiculousness of Franco and McBride arguing over ejaculation etiquette. And even though it was expected, I appreciated the actors admitting to their own career shortcomings. My favorite was Franco saying they should make sequels to all of his movies except Your Highness. He couldn’t be more right.
But after a while the movie starts to run around in circles and grows tired, or at least we grow tired watching it. By the end, I was no longer amused by the actors poking fun at themselves and I had my fair share of penis humor. Hopefully the same goes for the guys who starred in this movie and they can now move onto projects where they actually have to act. After all, that’s what they’re “paid handsomely” for.