Friday, June 14, 2013
THIS IS THE END Is An Epic Comedy Classic
THIS IS THE END Review:
- It's rare that a movie is this funny. I mean, honestly ... I can't even remember the last time I saw a new film that was anywhere even in the vicinity of THIS IS THE END. It's hard to write reviews of comedy, but I will just say this: this one feels like writers/directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg got away with something. Somehow, some way, they convinced Sony to give them millions of dollars to make a completely over-the-top, incredibly vulgar, balls-to-the-wall comedy about Rogen and a bunch of other actors - playing themselves - facing the full-on apocalypse. And what I've found is that the best comedies usually come about in this way ... when the movie gets made despite all common sense saying that it probably shouldn't exist. Thankfully, someone chucked common sense out the window and said "have at it." Because ... my god ... this is an instant comedy classic that will be quoted and re-watched from now until the end of days.
THIS IS THE END actually has some great character dynamics, even though all of the actors are playing heightened versions of themselves. The main arc of the movie revolves around the precarious friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel. While Seth has settled down in Los Angeles and mostly embraced the Hollywood lifestyle, Jay has stayed away from LA, and avoided the parties and the celebrities and the fakeness. So when Jay goes to visit his old friend in LA, he hopes to spend his time with Seth playing videogames and getting high. Seth, however, wants his old friend to get along with his new friends, so he drags a reluctant Jay to a party at James Franco's new house. There, Jay doesn't exactly ingratiate himself, and looks to make a quick exit. But when he and Seth head out for a snack run, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Some kind of crazy, apocalyptic disaster breaks out (we eventually learn its exact nature, but I won't spoil it here), as giant holes open up in the earth, and, well, basically, some really crazy $#%& goes down. Seth and Jay hightail it back to Franco's house, where we're treated to an epic slaughter of the various celebrities at the party. Eventually, the surviving group consists of Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride (with one or two additional surprises thrown into the mix). And from there ... hilarity ensues.
The main joke of the movie is watching these laid-back actor types try to deal with the apocalypse. And so it never comes off as smug or annoying that everyone is playing themselves, because hey, the joke is squarely on them. Each actor is playing a heightened version of themselves, a version that hilariously and smartly plays off of or subverts their real-life reputations. Rogen is the good-natured if mostly-useless stoner, Baruchel the uptight hipster, Franco the self-important artist, Hill the passive-aggressive poseur, Robinson the child-like goofball, and McBride, well, he's basically an only slightly toned-down version of Kenny Powers - a hilariously unpredictable loose cannon. Other actors who pop in for cameos do even crazier and more subversive versions of themselves. Michael Cera is awesome as sort of the anti-Michael Cera. Known as a nice guy, Cera plays Michael Cera as a coke-snorting, womanizing asshole - universally hated by all. It's funny as hell. Also great is Emma Watson, who shows up all of the guys by being, by far, the biggest badass of the bunch. There are all sorts of other great little cameos - from Kevin Hart, to Aziz Ansari, to Rihanna, to Jason Segel. And some others I won't reveal, because part of the hilarity is the surprise-factor.
The interesting thing here is that, man, the movie actually delivers on its apocalyptic premise, and delivers some huge, epic set pieces. There is some crazy-ass CGI stuff in the movie that I wasn't expecting - and Rogen and Goldberg give the movie an added sense of scale thanks to some surprisingly exciting and well-done action scenes. Sure, all of the action has a comedic bent - but man, there is some well-choreographed scenes and some insane-looking, hellspawned creatures. Suffice it to say, many full-on action movies wish they had set piece sequences and monsters as good as those in THIS IS THE END.
But, let's get down to it ... what makes THIS IS THE END so damn amazing is that it has a dream team of funny actors performing from what has to be one of the end-to-end funniest scripts ever in a big screen comedy. Almost every dialogue exchange in the movie has some great little moment in it - there's barely a minute that goes by without solid laughs. And when the movie hits its comedic high-points, it's quite simply off-the-chain, drop-dead funny, delivering some of the biggest belly-laughs of any film I've seen. Rogen and Goldberg proved with Superbad that they know how to write great back-and-forth banter, but they take it to another level here.
And every one of the main actors has multiple "home-run" moments of hilarity. Whether its Craig Robinson revealing his sordid past, Jonah Hill getting possessed by a demon (Exorcist-style), Seth Rogen recounting childhood traumas, Jay Baruchel hating on Forrest Gump, or James Franco showing off his incredibly self-indulgent art collection ... there really is no weak link. But personally, the man who brought it all to another plane of crazy-ass-awesome for me was Danny McBride. I've been a huge fan since The Foot Fist Way. I'll defend Your Highness to I'm blue in the face. And I maintain that Eastbound & Down is one of the funniest things ever on TV. But for those who still doubt the greatness of McBride, I have to imagine that they'll be converted to the cult after seeing THIS IS THE END. McBride is a freaking force of comedy nature in this one, stealing scenes with his volatile temper, total contempt for his friends, and mastery of blunt-force, hilariously vulgar insults. McBride is one of those guys who can make just about anything funny with his unique delivery, but when he's paired with material this funny and other actors this good, he's just plain legendary, Kenny Powers-style.
And hey, through all the vulgarity, rapid-fire humor, and invading demons from hell, the movie actually finds time for some genuine heart. Somehow, in spite of everything else, Goldberg and Rogen make this a movie about more than just whacked-out comedy, but also about friendship, growing up, and about being a good person. Who would have guessed?
But above all else, THIS IS THE END is just a blissfully hilarious movie that doesn't let up on laughs for its duration. It's quite simply awesome - a kick-ass end-of-world comedy that is one of the must-see movies of the summer.
My Grade: A