This Is The End
I find myself wondering, after "21 Jump Street," whether the Apatow Crew, heterosexual-guys-in-love-with-each-other thing hasn’t reached its apogee. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum played out their own love story without irony. They made it through a whole set piece of them fingering each other’s mouths without resorting to a single gay panic gag. In a few ways, I have to wonder -- where can you go after that?
"This is the End" is wondering that same question. Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg (their pens are responsible for "Superbad," "Pineapple Express" and "The Green Hornet," officially) direct for the first time. And the answer they’ve come up with is to blow up the whole damn subgenre.
Rogen is playing himself, as are his troupe regulars James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jonah Hill. There’s a party at Franco’s house and everyone’s invited. McLovin’ shows up for a coked-out "Superbad" reunion; Michael Cera won’t stop slapping Rihanna’s ass; Mindy Kaling won’t stop trying to have sex with Michael Cera.
Debauchery and overworked-meta-humor ensues. Only Jay Baruchel, whose bit part performances in films like "Million Dollar Baby" leaves him less recognizable than the rest of the parties’ denizens, fails to have a good time. He’s trolling around, smoking cigarettes and wishing he hadn’t come out to LA for the weekend. He feels like his buddy Seth is abandoning him for a new batch of A-list friends; he doesn’t want to have to glad-hand with Jonah and James and all these other snobby West Coast assholes; he doesn’t want to be here.
His feelings aren’t wrong: A reel into the movie, the rapture happens. The depths of hell open, demons walk the street and Emma Watson channels her inner badass and robs their house. Seth, Jay and all their stand-up buddies are locked together under one roof.
Rogen and Goldberg probably have a notebook somewhere with a list of every joke or set-piece they’ve never been able to fit into a movie. Like an unevenly rolled, overfilled joint, they’ve stuffed every last nug of random humor they could find into this movie. They use the video camera from Franco’s "127 Hours" to film "Real World"-style confessionals; they take ecstasy and rage to "Gangnam Style"; they even have spooning sessions at night, as if the homoeroticism hadn’t been pronounced enough yet. Freed from the constraints of tent-pole filmmaking, they’re going directly after lunatic absurdity. It’s screwball filth.
For a moment it’s even tempting to try and draw a philosophy out of it all -- about the ego-fellating culture of Hollywood, about the dirty competitive underside to "bromances," about the sheer ridiculousness of taking the text of the Bible literally. But it’s really just a hilarious lark, a "Fuck you" from Rogen and Goldberg aimed directly at everyone who isn’t in on their pot-and-penis jokes.
Offensive, self-aware and self-obsessed, it’s the comedic-cinematic equivalent of a controlled demolition. This movie is closer to gonzo cult curiosities like "Skidoo" or "Million Dollar Legs" than it is to "Superbad." It’ll be hard to top. It won’t be the end, but maybe it should be.