Movie Review: This is the End (2013)
Is the Hollywood-hating, “Left Behind”-loving, conservative Christian crowd checking out “This is the End”? I think they’d dig it the most.
If they did, they’d get to watch that horrible den of liberal iniquity, Hollywood, Calif., turn into a literal hell on earth, while its pampered godless denizens realize not only that they’re pampered and godless but that they have been left behind by God.
They’d get to hear lines like these:
Seth: That means there’s a God. Who saw that shit coming?
Jay: Like 95 percent of the planet?
It’s the Book of Revelation with dick jokes.
On the down side, some of the heathens wind up in heaven anyway. Yes, even the Jews.
Almost everyone in “This is the End” plays themselves, or “plays themselves” in the Jerry Seinfeld/Larry David manner. Jay Baruchel (“She’s Out of My League”) shows up in L.A. to hang out with his longtime friend Seth Rogen (“The Green Hornet”). Apparently he just wants to hang, but after a day of pot-smoking and 3D video-game-playing Seth drags him to the housewarming party of James Franco (“Spider-Man 3”), Rogen’s co-star in the stoner comedy “Pineapple Express.” Everyone’s happy to see Seth, everyone’s awkward around Jay. Jay’s awkward with them, too, and he searches for a place at the party where he might fit in. He doesn’t find it. It’s a good scene, actually. As a perennial not-fitting-in-at-parties dude, I identified. Hell, I do it when I’m not further burdened by the presence of Emma Watson and Rihanna, who, poor girls, probably double the awkward quotient whenever they walk into a room.
At a local convenience store a few blocks away, where Jay is buying smokes, Seth is wary of the tough-talking cashier who demands a man buy something before his daughter uses the restroom. The two stars are riffing on this when the earth cracks open. It’s like an earthquake but bigger, people are screaming, and Jay sees blue beams of light lift half the people in the convenience store into the sky. The father/daughter: yes. The cashier: no. At first I thought UFOs. I didn’t yet know where we were going.
Outside it’s worse, there’s fire everywhere, and, in a panic, Seth and Jay run and stumble back to James Franco’s place … where the party’s still in full swing. In fact, no one believes their story. Then the earth rumbles again and everyone runs outside, where a giant sinkhole opens up on Franco’s front yard, swallowing, among others, Rihanna, Michael Cera (“Scott Pilgrim”), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Kick Ass”), and Paul Rudd (“I Love You, Man”). By the time they regroup inside, we’re down to our principles: Jay, Seth, Franco, Jonah Hill (“Moneyball” ) and Craig Robinson (“The Office”). Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down”), sleeping it off in the bathtub upstairs, joins them the next morning. Emma Watson returns for a mid-movie cameo.
Franco tries to buoy everyone up. “Just because a bunch of people fell into a giant hole doesn’t mean we can’t have fun,” he says. Jay remains unbuoyed: “I don’t want to die in James Franco’s house,” he tells Seth, whining. Seth panics: “We’re actors! We’re not hard! We pretend to be hard but we’re not!”
The longer they hole up the worse it gets outside. Heads roll. Literally. Demons prowl. By the time Jonah Hill gets raped and possessed by Satan (yes), everyone has finally agreed that Jay is right, that they’re dealing with the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations. But Craig shows them a way out. Sacrificing himself for the others, he ascends to heaven just before being eaten (or something) by a giant demon. Franco tries the same method, is en route, but makes the mistake of flipping off Danny McBride, now the leader of a band of cannibals, and tumbles back to earth to get eaten alive.
Eventually we find out heaven is a bit like (alley oop) James Franco’s party, except with the Backstreet Boys. Heaven gets the Backstreet Boys, hell Rihanna. Something wrong in that equation.
“This is the End” has a few funny moments (“Something so not chill happened last night,” Jonah confesses after being Devil-raped), but a lot of clunkers. There’s an attempt to make a shoe-string “Pineapple Express 2,” for example. We also get the usual push-the-envelope stuff—arguments about jizz on porno mags—and too much Danny McBride, whom I’ve never found funny. The movie, like the Christopher Guest comedies, is 50 percent improv. Unlike the Guest comedies, it’s not that funny. I can’t recommend it.
But I am curious if a movie with this many dick jokes, and with Satan himself portrayed with a big swinging dick, can appeal to the “Left Behind” crowd. Because beyond the jizz jokes, the movie gives them everything they want. God rewards the good and punishes Hollywood. Leaving the theater wasn’t like leaving a typical stoner comedy. It was more like leaving “Saving Private Ryan.” You do a kind of spiritual patdown. You wonder: “Have I been a good person?”