So just who is the intended audience for This Is the End? Seth Rogen fans. Also, James Franco fans. Plus Danny McBride fans. And fans of the cast presented on the movie’s poster. And maybe Judd Apatow, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared fans are lining up.
But make no mistake. This Is the End is not intended to please those fans. That it may is beside the point. This Is the End is made to please its stars—Rogen, Franco, McBride and also Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel—and its co-director Evan Goldberg, who directed with, of course, Rogen.
This Is the End is so devoid of good ideas, smarts or laughs that it’s hard to understand just what its purpose is. I can only conclude it’s to get those six friends together who appear on the poster, and let them riff. And, boy, do they riff.
For example, Franco and McBride have a staggeringly lengthy argument about whether it’s appropriate to masturbate and then cum all over the one piece of porn—an old issue of Penthouse—that exists in the house the six share. McBride thinks it’s fine. Franco, whose magazine it is, thinks it’s decidedly not fine. This argument goes on for what seems like forever, but is probably about 60 seconds, and—this is a guess—they each use the word “cum” approximately 20 times.
That would all be great—who doesn’t like a good cum joke?—if the conversation were funny. But it isn’t. The repetition only drives the unfunniness of it home. Franco and McBride try really, really hard, but the joke falls flaccid.
Another dumb gag: The guys mount a home-movie version of Pineapple Express 2 to stave off boredom. Unfortunately, all of This Is the End feels like a home movie, only with better lighting (but not much better).
The plot—or, let’s be honest: “plot”—is that the world is ending, literally. All the friends are at Franco’s new state-of-the-art fortress-like home for a party, and they hunker down after the rest of the party guests flee in terror when Los Angeles goes kaboom.
The cast members play versions of themselves we’re familiar with. Rogen is Rogen-ish (someone even asks him whether he ever plays parts in which he doesn’t play himself). McBride, who’s usually funny in asshole mode, seems bored. Franco takes the whole thing pretty seriously. Robinson is charming as always, and Hill plays a syrupy sweet version of himself. He’s the only actor who seems to be playing against type.
The secret weapon—as pointed out to me by another critic and friend—is Baruchel, who once again is the best thing about the production he’s in (see also: She’s Out of My League, Cosmopolis, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Knocked Up). He manages to keep the movie grounded with some humanity while the rest of the cast is making dick jokes (so. many. dick. jokes.)
He plays to type, too, as the only person in the movie not to have gone Hollywood—Baruchel is proudly Canadian, in the movie and in life—and maybe that’s why he’s the soul of the picture. Who can really say? The whole point of This Is the End is to make penis yuks, so the sweetness of one character gets lost in the metaphorical semen of the other five.
There are some belly laughs, maybe five in total, and there is one inspired casting choice. Emma Watson pops up playing a version of herself who isn’t about to take shit from her new housemates. That she does it without winking at the audience is a pleasant surprise. If only co-helmsmen Rogen and Goldberg directed the rest of the cast that way.
But at the same time, any movie in which Mindy Kaling and Michael Cera die horribly in the first 15 minutes can’t be all bad. Can it?
THIS IS THE END
Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
With Rogen, Jay Baruchel and James Franco
Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14