johnlink ranks THIS IS THE END (2013)

There are vanity projects, and then there is making a movie in which you and your friends play yourselves surviving the apocalypse. That is the premise of THIS IS THE END. If these were loathsome people then this would be a failure. We already know James Franco is in it. One check mark in that column. Could it work?


I watched THIS IS THE END (2013) on 3.5.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Whew. What an interesting little movie this is. We usually consider deep character drama to have layers of meaning, or twisty suspense films to have loaded imagery. But here is this self-indulgent comedy in which friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg decide to make a movie in which Rogen and his friends face the apocalypse – playing themselves – and there is a lot to talk about.

The story is smart. James Franco has a party. This gives us an excuse to meet a whole bunch of famous people. The core survivalists become Franco, Rogen, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, and Craig Robinson. But before and during the rapture, we also get some bits from Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Channing Tatum, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, and Jason Segel.

These people all play versions of themselves. Some, like Rogen and Baruchel seem to be similar to their actual personalities. Some, like Franco seem to be a version of himself that is tied to public perception of his persona. Some, like Michael Cera, are obviously characterizations which take pains to show us the opposite of what the kid actually is. McBride’s McBride is the sort of guy he plays in TV and movies anyway. Jonah Hill is maybe doing the biggest fake persona, one that pays off with the most broad comedic bit. And, finally, there is the Emma Watson type cameo in which we just take pleasure in seeing someone be something other than what we assume they are based on characterization (Channing Tatum’s cameo falls between this category and the Michael Cera category). It is clear, though, that one must be in tune with these people as characters and celebrities if one is to fully enjoy the skewering. Otherwise, if you don’t know these folks, what is the fun?

So trying to discern who is and is not themselves is both the most fun part and ultimately pointless. Because this is, after all, a comedy about a bunch of celebrities dealing with rapture. Rogen and Goldberg both write and direct this in a way which allows plenty of tangents. The movie nearly derails itself in these tangents for twenty minutes before becoming interesting again once the guys all break out of the house.

The movie uses the end times as a subject, but doesn’t take the subject seriously – and we wouldn’t want it to. The question of being ‘good enough’ for heaven is more a commentary on celebrity than it is on the nature of good. There is a reason that the people who end up in heaven do, and those that don’t do not. The movie is about audience enjoyment and engagement, not on any kind of moral code. Good thing too, because if a movie about movie stars being themselves tried to turn preachy, it sure wouldn’t be any fun.

There is a lot to laugh at here. Plenty feels improvised and surely is. Very little falls flat, though some segments seem to play out a bit too long. This movie’s first and third acts are top notch, and it’s tangents are never terrible.

Go ahead and try to take this movie apart. By being a commentary on fame it shields itself from being a vanity project. But it is, no doubt, a vanity project in the truest sense of the word. It is understandable why Sony declined to give this movie a huge budget (and the special effect suffer as a result), but it is equally understandable to see why it is so likable.




FINAL SCORE: 7 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on March 5, 2015.

4 Responses to “johnlink ranks THIS IS THE END (2013)”

  1. I wanted to like this one, I really did. But it was only decent for about 20 minutes and then I was bored to tears. Such a disappointment. 😕 Glad you were able to enjoy it though!

  2. Laughed a whole heck of a lot with this. But then again, I’m a huge fan of these guys in general, so it was of course made specifically for me. Good review John.

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