With ample discussion on the art of cumming and the visage of the devil’s cock on full display, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s raging hard-on for, well.. hard-ons reaches its appropriate climax with This Is the End. The comedic terrain is a purposefully familiar one as the collective of central actors have essentially shaped the way comedies are made to this day. In an Apatow-era of comedies that began sometime in the mid-aughts with The 40-Year Old Virgin, the Hollywood machine has made stars of the likes of Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and others for their raunchy exploits. What Goldberg and Rogen’s film posits is something of a meta-exercise into their lives, exploiting celebrity life as a means of complicating the formulaic wheelhouse that they’ve operated in for the past few years.
That wheelhouse has arguably been straining its wheels as of late. Judd Apatow (not a producer on This Is the End) has shown a careful departure in expanding the formulaic template, particularly with his involvement in the HBO show Girls. But while Apatow’s work has been on the steady rise, it’s the actors he typically casts in his films that have shown sporadic and compromising returns. Something of a recurring gag in This Is the End is the numerous potshots at the decadent performances and films featuring Seth Rogen (disappointingly, no one highlights his performance in Take this Waltz). The insular form of comedy that exaggerates celebrity persona is best exemplified in the film’s opening act, with Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen attending James Franco’s housewarming party. It’s the sharpest bits of This is the End, where the anxieties and interactions amongst celebrities are at its most hilarious – it could conceivably have been made into a feature-length film itself.
The problems with This Is the End are twofold. Goldberg and Rogen’s screenplay drops the intrinsically human element of its anything-goes-party by deploying an end-of-days narrative that befits a half-assed Funny-or-Die sketch – only it’s stretched out for the remaining two acts of the film’s runtime. While at times humorous, the hit-and-miss ratio takes a slide with its coincidental introduction of Danny McBride and the subsequent narrative headiness of the film. Finally, the film is constructed oddly, edited sloppily, and has a particularly grating level of sap involved. It’s to be expected of virtually any film that features the various actors and producers at its helm, but the maudlin sentimentality involved registers as very self-important and just dull.
This Is the End promises so much from its onset, reviling in a relaxed party vibe that is undercut by so much exposition and fluff. The gag overstays its welcome, lacking the momentum from both filmmakers and script to ever feel genuine. I won’t get over just how damn hilarious its first act takes shape – showing a fluid and bitingly subversive sense of humor. But when the party ends, This Is the End peaks.