The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


This Is the End

This Is the End is like “The Walking Dead” meets “The Real World,” cast with an entire generation of hot comic actors. An example of meta filmmaking at its finest, the movie starts off seeming like a lark, only to gradually reveal unexpected depth as it goes along. The basic premise is that a bunch of stars get plunked into the apocalypse, try not to die, and must learn to keep their egos in check while living under the same roof. What happens next is very, very funny.

In the opening scene, Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote and co-directed with Evan Goldberg) picks up his old pal/“Undeclared” co-star Jay Baruchel from the airport. The two smoke some weed, play some videogames, and head over to a party at James Franco's house. Everyone is there: Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Emma Watson, Jason Segal, Rhianna, Kevin Hart, and plenty more. A short time later, catastrophe strikes. A sinkhole opens up in the front yard, swallowing many of the guests. The Hollywood hills catch fire. People are enveloped in beams of blue light and sucked into the sky. The world is coming to an end. Rogen, Franco, and Baruchel board themselves up in the house, along with Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride. What happens inside is almost as frightening as what's happening outside.

One of the best jokes in This Is the End is that the actors either play exaggerated versions of their public personas (Franco is a quirky jack-of-all-trades, who designed his own house and painted all the art on the walls) or the complete opposite of them (“Michael Cera” is a cokehead pervert). There is additionally an abundance of in-jokes about these stars and their careers, leading to amusing Superbad and Pineapple Express cast reunions. These things – and the humor that follows as the guys try to stay alive – work because all the actors are friends in real life. Aside from being humorously self-referential, the relationships in the movie feel authentic. Rogen and pals know how to riff off each other, how to milk their personal chemistry for big laughs. I was reminded of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” season wherein Larry David staged a “Seinfeld” reunion. It's that same sort of fantasy-based-in-reality. For that reason, every second of This Is the End is almost hypnotically watchable.

While it certainly skewers notions of fame and celebrity, the movie also does a lot more. Friendship is the major theme here, with the guys alternately banding together to survive and succumbing to the pressure by letting out their personal demons. (Danny McBride earns the MVP award, playing a borderline evil incarnation of himself.) As the apocalypse grows increasingly dire, friendships are put to the test. This Is the End meditates on how male friends care for each other in sometimes unique ways, suggesting that male bonding can produce its own form of survival. Without ever growing sappy, the film proves to be sort of touching in how the guys' relationships play out.

Now here's the really surprising part. For all the raunchy, penis-related humor and comic gore, This Is the End turns out, surprisingly, to be one of the most religious movies I've seen in a while. Not in a preachy way, mind you. No, it's far too raunchy to ever preach. Yet it does generally follow Christian theology regarding the Rapture, which ends up becoming very important in the third act. (Rogen and Goldberg are both Jewish. Beyond that, I have no idea what their feelings are regarding religion.) Maybe it was intentional, or maybe it was just a necessity to create some sort of resolution for the central dilemma. Still, you can't deny that it's there and it adds something. Not since Kevin Smith's Dogma has there been a movie with a positive faith message dressed up in such potty humor.

This Is the End will likely become one of those movies where fans recite lines of dialogue and reminisce over certain hilarious scenes for years to come. This isn't just a funny movie, it's the kind of funny movie that makes you want to go back and see it again. Original, daring, self-deprecating, and frequently uproarious, This Is the End is certain to be one of the best – if not the best – comedies of the year.

( 1/2 out of four)

This is the End is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

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