This Is the End is what happens when supposedly good ideas for feature-length films are born from bong hits and enacted by a bunch of people squeezing the last ounce of goodwill and pop-culture cache they have left from their salad days five years ago. The entire premise is the worst kind of vanity project, centering around a bunch of comedic actors — Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and some others — mostly on the downside of their careers, playing absurd versions of themselves, yucking it up and having way more fun making their movie than you’ll ever have watching it.
I’m convinced that if you chopped 80 minutes off this film, you might have a decent short flick. In fact, the movie originates from a 6-year-old, 90-second fake trailer, which explains why the promising and somewhat clever premise quickly stalls out. The film begins with Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel going to a party at the house of a particularly amped-up, pretentious version of James Franco. Filled with various celebrities — from Emma Watson to Rihanna to a lazily ironic cokehead version of Michael Cera — the Apocalypse suddenly breaks out. Most of these celebs are offed in a blur of some of the shoddiest, confusing direction I can remember, leaving Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson to hole up and survive the end of the world.
Don’t expect much satirization of celebrity. Instead, the movie acts more like a cinematic circle jerk toward their own fame. The idea of sitting down and writing a film with good dialogue or jokes is lost on these people. Rather, we’re left to listen to Danny McBride riff on genitals for the billionth time. Obviously, this means the plot is nearly nonexistent and whole chunks of action serve no purpose — including 15 minutes dedicated to digging through the floor to get water — but this isn’t the film’s goal. Any momentum is used to push us from one vignette to another, as the film marks off its checklist as many gross or supposedly offensive jokes it can. Rape jokes? Check. Rogen urinating into his own mouth? Check. Franco and McBride arguing over semen? Check. How about a big, floppy monster phallus? Sure, they already used that in Your Highness (2011), but nobody saw that, so the gang carts it out again for cheap laughs.
If there’s an easy laugh to be had, This Is the End will sniff it out and cart it around. The complete lack of effort from these guys, who squander a $32-million budget, is nearly insulting. Lazy, formless and bloated are not what you want your movie to be. Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande