Monday, June 17, 2013

This is the End

I have no problem with in-jokes, or humor about how fabulous it is to be a Hollywood celebrity and not one of the poor saps in the paying audience.
In fact, I'd been looking forward to Evan Goldberg's and Seth Rogen's "This is the End" more than any other comedy this year. And there are about half a dozen big laughs, and a few more chuckles along the way. But man, you can cut fifteen- and twenty-minute swaths of this movie without so much as a titter. Because it wastes so much time on its preposterous sci-fi plot, way too much of "This is the End" plays as dead air.

The plot involves an earthquake that morphs into the Apocalypse. Rogen has picked up Jay Baruchel at LAX and brought him against his wishes to a huge house party at James Franco's. Everybody's there, from Aziz Ansari to a coke-snorting Michael Cera to Rihanna to Paul Rudd. Nobody notices at first, but the city's on fire around them and the ground has opened up almost directly underneath them. It's every man for himself, and we're left with five survivors: Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson. Then Danny McBride shows up and starts eating his way through their provisions. 

The scene is set for lots of great comic riffing, and the kind of consistent big laughs I found in Goldberg's and Rogen's severely underrated "The Watch" last year, with Hill and Vince Vaughn alongside Ben Stiller and Richard Ayoade. That movie also featured a ridiculous plot involving cheap-looking creatures from up above, but it took its storyline much less seriously and spent much less of its runtime on it. (It even got some laughs out of the guys' fucking around with the aliens.) That movie's worth seeking out online or on the tube.

This one, though, bogs down in its clunky narrative. Each of the guys gets one or two great scenes - and there's a very funny late one involving McBride, who ends up leading a sect of cannibals (don't ask) and takes Channing Tatum as his gay bitch ("Get off of my dick, Channing!"). But too much of the time it's just half a dozen guys we like shrieking "Aaaaa!" and running into each other. In the end, the crowning achievement of "This is the End" is to lower a bunch of actors' Kevin Bacon numbers.

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