It’s the apocalypse — and how — in hilarious ‘This Is the End’
BY RICHARD ROEPER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST June 10, 2013 5:28PM
L-r, James Franco, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson in Columbia Pictures' "This Is The End," also starring Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel,.
‘THIS IS THE END’ ★★★★
As themselves: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Danny Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Rihanna, et al.
Columbia Pictures presents a film written and directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence). Late-night screenings Tuesday at select locales and opening wide Wednesday.
Updated: June 10, 2013 9:01PM
“Hermione just stole all of our [stuff].”
— Danny McBride as Danny McBride, recapping an embarrassing development involving Emma Watson in “This Is the End.”
One of the great this-is-wrong moments in the wickedly hilarious “This Is the End” comes when a ferocious, gigantic, satanic creature storms through Los Angeles, destroying everything in its way as the apocalypse rains down on humanity.
In many ways this beast is like countless other CGI creations we see in practically every other movie these days — all lizard-y and growling and thunderous — with one distinct exception: We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this monster’s a man.
Think about it: In most sci-fi thriller and man-vs.-alien scenarios, the oversized killing machines that talk like James Earl Jones in an echo chamber (“Prepare to die, hopeless earthlings!”) are utterly, um, junkless. They’re futuristic Ken dolls with fire-breathing capabilities.
Not so with the monster in “This Is the End.” We know where he stands.
When I say this movie is like nothing you’ve ever seen, it’s no hyperbole. Does Satan violate Jonah Hill (playing Jonah Hill) in this movie? Does Jonah Hill become possessed? Does this lead to the funniest exorcism scene in motion-picture history?
Yes. Yes. And you betcha.
Those are just some of the reasons this is one of the most tasteless, ridiculous and hilarious comedies of the 21st century. In its own sloppy, raunchy, sophomoric, occasionally self-pleased and consistently energetic way, “This Is the End” is just about perfect at executing its mission, which is to poke fun at its stars, exhaust every R-rated possibility to get a laugh, and even sneak in a few insights into Hollywood, the celebrity culture and the nature of faith.
When the apocalypse literally sets the world on fire, and the good people ascend to heaven while the not-so-good people are destroyed in gruesome fashion, one young star is stunned to learn there really is an afterlife, and a God, and all that.
“Who saw THAT coming?” he says.
“Um, about 95 percent of the world’s population,” responds a more grounded fellow actor.
Everybody in “This Is the End” is playing a version of themselves, with some portrayals probably a LITTLE closer to reality than others. (Is the seemingly sweet, shy Michael Cera really a coked-up sex fiend? I’m going to vote “no,” but he’s effortlessly brilliant playing that character here, even reaching out and grabbing Rihanna’s booty at one point, while Mindy Kaling insists she’s going to blow her brains out if she doesn’t hook up with Cera.)
Seth Rogen’s Seth Rogen is an affable, pot-smoking, quick-witted lug who’s thrilled when his old pal Jay Baruchel arrives for what’s supposed to be a low-key weekend of weed, movies, junk food and catching up.
But much to Baruchel’s dismay, Rogen drags him to a celebrity-filled party at James Franco’s house, populated by nearly every recognizable actor who’s been in a Judd Apatow project, plus the aforementioned Rihanna, who at one point sings a stinging rebuke to Craig Robinson as he belts out a tune called “Take Off Your Panties.” Sure. Why not.
Jay tries to fit in with Seth’s newer, more successful friends, but he can’t help cringing at Franco’s pretentious artwork and Jonah Hill’s over-the-top sensitive nice-guy act, among other perceived crimes against good taste and keeping it real.
The party is just great. Jason Segel pokes fun at his character from “How I Met Your Mother.” Rogen is mocked for “The Green Hornet,” and there’s talk of how his friends think he’s a sellout. Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and other familiar faces all have a classic moment or two.
Then the apocalypse ensues, and it takes these shallow ninnies a while to figure out what’s happening — and before the night is over, only Rogen, Franco, Baruchel, Hill and Robinson have survived.
Oh, yeah, and Danny McBride, who sleeps through the initial carnage, wakes up the next morning and makes the boys breakfast, refusing to believe the world is ending outside Franco’s fortress of a home. Once McBride realizes the end is indeed near, he goes from being the most obnoxious actor in the house to one of the worst humans.
And I’d be remiss not to mention the ax-wielding Emma Watson, who’s just awesome dealing with these narcissistic cowards.
We think we know Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco and other young Hollywood players in a way we never knew Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase a generation ago because the newer guys seem so accessible.
They go on Howard Stern and talk openly about their love lives and their use of recreational stimulants. They do wacky viral videos. Thanks (blame?) to TMZ.com, et al., we see them pumping gas, walking through LAX, exiting clubs.
In the immortal words of Us magazine: Stars! They’re just like us!
Of course, we don’t REALLY know these people.
But I’d like to think “This Is the End” captures just the way they’d act on Judgment Day.