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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: This is the End

THIS IS THE END (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, 2013

Just when I’d practically given up buddy-buddy movie comedy for dead, after the wipeouts of The Hangover III  and The Internship, along comes This is the End, from writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, to revive your faith in bad taste and arrested development. This picture, which combines the comic anarchy of early Marx Brothers movies with the insane parody movie-movie-ness of Mel Brooks, and the contemporary realistic raunch of Rogen’s Godfather,  Judd Apatow, is so funny you may actually laugh yourself senseless watching it. And you may not of, course. Your loss, Dude. And Ms. Dude.

Goldberg and Rogen, two nice Jewish boys grown up (sort of), may be taking their revenge on movies like The Exorcist, or Night of the Living Dead for having once scared them, and also most of their imitators, or not. In any case, they’ve concocted, for The End,  what seem hundreds of sometime ridiculous or offensive but mostly hilarious jokes and given them to actor Rogen and his five outrageously self-flagellating actor-buddies James (The Great Profile) Franco, Jonah (“The Possessed”) Hill, Craig (“Take Yo Panties Off”) Robinson, Jay (Woody, Jr.) Baruchel and Danny (Mr. Filth) McBride—all of whom appear in the movie playing themselves (or travesties of themselves ) along with a lot of other young, hip Hollywood movie stars, playing (and travestying) themselves. It’s a wild, weird hybrid: a combination horror movie parody and bromo-com (or whatever), about a wild party at James Franco’s house in Hollywood, attended by Seth Rogen and malcontent houseguest Jay Baruchel, that is suddenly hit by what an earthquake that seems like a 15 on the Richter scale, but actually turns out to be the Apocalypse, a.k.a. the End of the World.

Rogen, Hill, Watson, Aziz Ansari.

The show starts off  with some quasi young-buds-in-Hollywood  comic realism. Jay Baruchel shows up at his old pal Seth Rogen’s house, whining. Seth hopes to cheer him up by taking him to Franco‘s. We arrive at the party with the raffish Rogen and his California-phobic  Canadian pal Jay, who has intellectual contempt for James and his other guests—including Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill (but not yet  Danny McBride). Jay  hates movies that are universally loved (Craig Robinson’s instant insight)  and the people who make them, and just wants to leave and be miserable somewhere else. But before he can, all Hell breaks loose.

The earthquake hits. The party empties out quickly onto Franco‘s immaculate lawn, where a yawning abyss opens, and screaming revelers plunge into fiery darkness, with nary a Black Sabbath song (except “The End of the Beginning“) to comfort them. Drenched in name-dropping wit and frenzy, actors like Rihanna and Michael Cera are  hurled and hurtled into the pit. Los Angeles becomes a shrieking madhouse of natural disasters, monsters and hysterical nincompoops with pretty-faced TV reporters reporting it all.  (Becomes?) Rogen and his other main actors (including McBride, who wasn’t invited to the party, with good reason) are finally all trapped together in Franco‘s place where, outside, zombies prowl, and where, inside, homosexual innuendo abounds—and which Franco tries to defend (the house, not the innuendo) with a prop World War I pistol salvaged from his 2006 movie about the Lafayette Escadrille, Flyboys. Eventually, we get an Exorcist parody, with Jonah Hill (who keeps bragging about his role in Moneyball) as Linda Blair—and that‘s funny too, especially when Jonah’s big head swivels.

Is this comedy funny? Does rain fall? Does the earth turn? Do toilets flush? It’s funny as hell, and not as permanent. In fact, as tasteless, self-referential, all-star comedies go, This is the End is probably the greatest repository (speaking of toilets) of toilet-level humor since, I don’t know, since some movie with a lot of toilet jokes. It’s the Casablanca of raunchy horror comedies — unless The World’s End is now.  This is the End is so funny, it made me crap in my pants, piss up my nose, fart in my ear, belch down my esophagus, vomit up my liver and fall out of my theater seat onto the multiplex floor, where I broke my neck—still laughing, mind you—died, and went to Hell, arriving there moments before Michael Cera and Rihanna.

Rogen’s and Goldberg’s comedy makes you (or at least, me) crack up, often, by kidding itself, kidding its stars, and plunging us into a Hieronymus Bosch landscape and a Zap Comix/Mad Magazine nightmare of the world’s end, with movie stars trapped in their palaces, and terrified Angelenos running somewhere amok in the streets, pursued by ravenous devils, murderous zombies, hungry cannibals, and other angry tourists. It’s a rip and a riff on contemporary (mostly) bad movies done with no brakes and a constant stream of jokes, most of which hit the mark, and some of which hit the crapper, which probably was the mark anyway. The movie is as funny as they come. (Yes, there are ejaculation jokes, too.) (Sorry.) Meanwhile, the un-intrepid five (sometimes six) anti-anti-heroes of This is the End cower comedically and cravenly wise-crack in Franco‘s luxury digs, while just outside their Hollywood Hills prison, the ongoing end begins to Rapture saved souls up the blue light elevator to Heaven, and the yawning abyss keeps plummeting the damned down to Hell. (The Abyss may yawn, but you won’t.)

Rogen and the other guys seem so omnipresent these days—one of them seems to pop up in every third movie you see—that you may feel the whole movie is an egomaniac romp, that they’re just here to brag about their youth, their money, their careers, their sex lives, their highs, and how Rogen and Goldberg got the  studio to greenlight a movie based  on Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, a 9-minute short made by Rogen, Goldberg and Jason Stone in 2007, with much the same main cast. You could  compare their direction and cinematic chutzpah to  Federico Fellini’s, Orson Welles’, Robert Bresson’s or Martin Scorsese’s—except that you’d sound like some kind of idiot if you did. (Then again, Robert Bresson never got laughs like this, not even in Un condamné à mort s’est échappé.)

This movie and its cast  have no visible vanity here. Rogen plays himself as a slobby videogame-playing layabout, Baruchel as a pompous misanthrope, Jonah Hill as finicky and full of himself, Franco as a self-adoring narcissist, Robinson as a crude sarcastic gagster, and McBride as the guy nobody wants to invite to any party (with good reason). They’re playing on their movie personas of course, and on what we may imagine they might be like—and also, probably a little bit, on themselves really. But they all keep scoring. eatedly.

You’re sometimes reminded of the great mock comic feuds that the top radio comedians of the 1940s used to have with each other—Jack Benny and Fred Allen, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, W. C. Fields and Charlie McCarthy—of those put-on, phony-venomous insult-fests that stretched into their movies as well. All six of the main stars of This is the End, and everybody else Rogen and Goldberg hired on, cheerfully kid the hell out of each other, playing themselves often as licentious, self-deluding, hypocritical, oafish buffoons—somehow trapped in a movie that might have been dreamed up by M. Night Shyamalan and Rob Zombie after a few tokes and mai tais. You might say that Rogen and Goldberg and their cast strip away the veneer of oafish buffoonery that permeates today’s Young Hollywood, to expose the real buffoonish oafery underneath.

Everyone seems to show up, all playing “themselves”: Emma Watson, Channing Tatum, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Passe, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel—even, it‘s rumored, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and the cast of The Hangover III, whose cameo appearances as lost souls or devils were cut out when the little horns they were given to wear kept falling off their ears. (Just kidding.).

One thing struck me as odd. I realize this is a buddy-buddy world and a buddy-buddy movie, but still, why didn’t they have more women stars around? Where did all the ladies go? There are a lot of them at the party, doing exactly what a licentious buffoon would want them to do, and Emma Watson later shows up,for an extended politically incorrect gag, But mostly it’s just us and the six guys, who all seem to be bachelors, including Danny McBride who shows up toward the end, with Channing Tatum on a leash and dog collar. This so bewildered me that, since I don‘t read celebrity magazines, I Googled all of them, and discovered that four of the guys are (or were) married, one is engaged, and the sixth, James Franco, though suspected by many,  is covered by a list of previous girlfriends and relationships. Reassured? I didn’t think so.

Of course, this is Rogen’s and Goldberg’s Apocalypse, and they can do anything they want with it. And they pretty much do. They’ve made a hell of a comedy, and so have all their buddies and gal pals, and I can‘t wait for “This is the End II,” or “Dude, Where‘s My Apocalypse?” Now, if they can just get those little horns with the rubber bands to keep from falling off…

Rogen, Goldberg.

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3 Responses to “Wilmington on Movies: This is the End”

  1. Breedlove says:

    I barely laughed at all.

  2. Bob says:

    believe the movie is fundamentally about Seth Rogan and his view on comedy itself.

    You have to love your audience, yet you have to hate them or you can’t make fun of them. You have to have to cut through the bull and perceive truth, yet you have to create a blizzard of bull or you’re not funny. You have to hate yourself enough to torture yourself for the amusement of others, yet you need to love yourself enough to have the confidence to do the job.

    Each of the six comedians were an aspect of what makes a good comedian.

    The apocalyptic hell-scape that is the backdrop for his little drama appears to be nothing short of exactly how Seth Rogan views comedy. The world is a nightmarish place, innocence is lost, somehow you need to try and
    find the humor in even the worst of situations. Hubris can bring down even the best of us. Walk too far into the dark and you wind up a cannibal in charge of your own road warrior rejects. Get consumed with your own self-righteousness and you can’t enjoy life. Become so obsessed with making everyone else happy, you turn evil inside. Get so used to bullshitting, you can’t see reality anymore. Hate yourself too much, you become a glutton for punishment.

    All the good people went to heaven. All the self-absorbed actors went to hell. Only the middle of the road stayed on earth. Comedians. For Seth Rogan, that’s what comedy is, walking that thin line between… well… everything.

  3. Dee says:

    For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon