When we think about This is the End, we think about actors playing warped versions of themselves. Frankly, actors have been playing themselves for quite some time: John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich, Bill Murray in Zombieland, Jean-Claude van Damme in JCVD. But celebrity self-reflexivity has hit an all-time high with This is the End; all the actors play themselves in name only, and the twisted caricatures of the actors make up the entire runtime of the film.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the comedic duo behind Superbad and Pineapple Express, present a raunchy, over-the-top screwball comedy about celebrities surviving the Apocalypse. From Michael Cera’s cocaine-fuelled antics to giant demonic penises, This is the End is silly, juvenile, disgusting… and potentially this year’s funniest movie.
With writer-director-actor Seth Rogen at the helm of This is the End, it truly is the “brain-child” of Rogen and Goldberg. Vanity projects like these often suffer from the bloated egos of its writer-director. M. Night Shyamalan himself buried his career after his notoriously terrible Lady in the Water was released, where his character is literally the Messiah. Rogen and Goldberg, on the other hand, aren’t afraid to make their characters into social parasites: rowdy, irresponsible and dishonest. Furthermore, these characters are relentlessly shoved into situations that pit them against each other, against their own values, and against all types of bodily fluids.
There’s more to the story than just dirty jokes and demon phalli; deep inside This is the End lies a story… albeit a rather straightforward one. Upon arriving in L.A., Jay Baruchel tries to rekindle his friendship with Seth Rogen, but Jay is reluctantly brought to a party at James Franco’s house, where Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a bunch of other Hollywood hooligans are attending. Late into the party, a sinkhole opens up in front of Franco’s house. After several grisly deaths and a lot of panicking, the six main cast members lock themselves up inside the house. As they struggle for necessities, Seth and Jay struggle to maintain their friendship, and everyone’s rivalries deepen.
What is This is the End about? If I were to answer that question, I would say the film is a story about friendship. Those who have seen the movie are probably thinking: “Are you serious?” The idea of This is the End being thematic is laughable, mainly because of all the vulgar humour that fills up the majority of the runtime. Make no mistake though, the friendship struggles between Seth and Jay are genuine, even if the apocalyptic backdrop isn’t.
That being said, the pastiche humor transforms This is the End from the average screwball comedy into something far more unique. With a dash of postmodernism, a pinch of gross-out scenes, and a ridiculous amount of pop culture references, writers Goldberg and Rogen have created a relic of the 1980s and 1990s. Nowadays, Forrest Gump is considered old, boy bands no longer dance to their music, and porn magazines have been curbed by the Internet — This is the End is not just a nostalgia trip, it is a movie dedicated and marketed to the twenty-year-olds and thirty-year-olds of Generation Y.
This nostalgia for the recent past is also embodied in its atmosphere and style. This is the End is an exploitation film at its core. There’s no schmaltzy romance with its 80s/90s reminiscence; the film’s vulgarity is rivaled only by the infamous splatter films of the same era. Inspired by low-budget movies like Robocop, Evil Dead, Cannibal Holocaust, and Pulp Fiction, This is the End cranks the violence and sexuality to eleven and watches the audience squirm. But unlike other cinematic bloodbaths, the violence and sexuality is not used for horror or action… just plain-old humour.
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