Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Is The End

The End Of L.A., Where All (Bad?) Actors Go To Heaven

Clockwise: Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill in "This Is The End". 

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mayhem, madness and male juvenile hijinks proliferate "This Is The End", a rollicking, hilariously out of control experience that is addicting, and, well-conceived by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, both of whom direct it.  An apocalyptic party-horror farce to end all future "Project X" movies, "This Is The End", a 24-hour-story, is fittingly set in Los Angeles, since, except for on the Mayan calandar, any notion of the world coming to the end is owned foremost by Hollywood. 

In an all-star cast of comedian actors and other assorted stars playing themselves, Mr. Rogen and fellow Canadian buddy Jay Baruchel (who were born six days apart in April 1982) are reunited in Los Angeles after a year.  The cautious and anti-social Jay, content to keep a low profile, doesn't like L.A. much but loves Seth's Tinseltown pad and its amenities.  It turns out James Franco's house is bigger and better, and there's a party there.  After Jay and Seth's arrival at Mr. Franco's place all hell -- and Earth -- breaks loose. 

Spun as a satire about vanity and perhaps metaphor for the fleeting life of actors on the big stage, "This Is The End" indulges a big stage of its own, conjuring up a generous dose of 1950s-type horror in the vein of films like "Them
!"  There's also an unmistakable diet of gore, the kind that Troma films regularly deliver to its most devoted fans.  Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg's exhilarating and exuberant comedy is often hysterical and mostly foolish but has plenty of laughs. 

In an age of voracious self-absorption and obsessive material appetites (seen in such 2013 films as Mr. Franco's starring effort "Spring Breakers"), "This Is The End" lauds the end of excess or at least challenges its stars to manage their existences in the wake of their crumbling auto-pilot world.  Before we know it, Jay and Seth have allies in Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill and Mr. Franco, who has a BFF kick for Seth.  These men, in survival mode as apocalyptic doom is imminent, banter about life, their film careers, religion, Heaven, ethics, food, water, weed, their penises and other homoerotic preoccupations and outrages.  Their very conversation feels end-of-the-world-ish. 

Emma Watson is one of only two women prominently featured in this mania, and plays against the Harry Potter-type character she's so adroitly moved away from.  "This Is The End" is a fantasy couched in the neuroses and insecurities of ill-mannered, high-profile, handsomely-paid performers, whose collective self-consciousness is alternately masked and gleefully discarded.  "This Is The End" is a film I loved, and loved laughing at.  There's disbelief in that last sentence (as one who generally reviles such films) as well as in some of the things you will see in "This Is The End", which will be a sure-fire smash hit with 15-year-old boys everywhere.

Mr. Robinson and Mr. Franco in particular are good, and the cast in general has no problem making fun of themselves and mocking their very existence.  "What is our purpose?," one of the actors asks.  The question is never fully answered, and some of them nervously laugh around it.  "This Is The End" wants us to laugh with and at its stupidity and frolic, but its makers are keenly aware that some may well wonder why a few of the actors on display really are so famous.  This film is interesting, both as an only-mild departure from the usual empty Hollywood tomfoolery comedies but also as a comment on where the state of Hollywood self-congratulatory fervor is. 

If "The Player" scandalously sent up the Hollywood mechanism and tension between writers and directors, "This Is The End" celebrates the explosion or exaggeration of the "first world" problems of Hollywood's rich and famous.  Lindsay Lohan is conveniently mentioned, among others.  The film cheerleads its satirical outposts with brio.  You can't help but admire Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg's wack-a-doodle wonderful effort.

Instead of sappy, self-serious endless cameo films like the dreadful "New Year's Eve", "This Is The End" is entertaining, alive, revolting and shameless.  Its wild wackiness is not entirely new yet it is always smart, sloppy and full of surprises.  The filmmakers appear to take stock in the idea that television these days is far sexier than film, and that for many the "reality" television world is far ahead of the crazy real world we swim around in.  "This Is The End", however, is a reality show for grandiose self-serving celebrities, only here the celebrities laugh, shriek and wink back at that reality show.  They know what they are doing and they do it well.  They are hardly caught unawares.

"This Is The End" never plays anything for subtlety, and its broad-strokes humor and horror do not waver.  So far, "This Is The End" is summer's big winner, and on the Gregorian calendar at least, summer hasn't even officially started yet.

Also with: A lot of other actors, comedians and faces you will recognize.

"This Is The End" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.  The film's running time is one hour and forty-one minutes.   

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