Though it doesn’t reinvent the exploitation genre, Goldberg and Rogen certainly go the distance when presenting a well-crafted joke. This is the End doesn’t repeat a joke to the point of fizzling out, nor does it leave its audience unsatisfied by cutting a joke short. Through foreshadowing, misdirection, and exaggeration, tasteless scenes are accentuated by its “setup-bait-punchline” structure. Listening carefully to the soundtrack and dialogue, all its exploitation and allusion are clearly justified.
For example, Craig Robinson discusses his positive reaction upon drinking his own pee, and proceeds to drink a martini glass of semi-transparent yellow liquid. In the following scene, Seth Rogen strips naked in front of a camcorder and slowly takes a seat. Suddenly, he shoots urine into his own mouth at the rate of a fire hose, and the scene is abruptly cut — viewers are shocked into laughter. Drinking pee out of a martini glass builds up the disgust and hyperbole, but the movie cuts away and lures it audience into a false sense of security. Thus, the punchline is really accentuated by properly timing a surprise.
This begs the question of whether This is the End deserves to be celebrated. Raunchy, exploitation movies tend to draw negative publicity from parents, film scholars, and government regulators; even today, Cannibal Holocaust is still banned in at least ten countries. So is Rogen’s vanity project a work of fiction, or just juvenile, nostalgic trash?
Despite the insistence of critics of its senseless repulsiveness, This is the End makes it clear that it intends to be nothing but childish and gross. James Franco even highlights the ambiguity of art, stating that even sex and childbirth is a form of art. Whether it does so purposely, This is the End is a modernist work of art just as much as any Andy Warhol painting. Or postmodern, depending on your philosophy of art. Regardless, many classic works of art exist through “Cogito ergo sum,” defining themselves as art because of its self-proclaimed definition. Like it or not, This is the End is more than just a pile of crude jokes on rude behavior and bodily waste.
And yet, I don’t think Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, or any of its actors aimed to make a work of art. All I see is a movie where a bunch of celebrities and comedians got together to make something they considered funny: drugs, violence, nudity, greed, sexual deviancy, and most of all, movies of their own generation. The result? A side-splitting salute to a culture that died not too long ago. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg don’t always write good movies; Pineapple Express was a mild disappointment, while The Green Hornet and The Watch were complete misfires. But on some occasions, they manage to capture the raw essence of what makes a generation unique, like they did in Superbad. And hopefully, this isn’t the end of This is the End.