A lot of things have been said about this movie. From the very first unrated red band trailer that came out for it on YouTube, it's been a buzzworthy comedy that had the curiousity of everyone who saw it. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Land of the Lost), Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson (NBC's The Office, Hot Tub Time Machine) and Jay Baruchel (Million Dollar Baby, Tropic Thunder) play themselves and try to survive The Apocalypse. That seems like an amazing concept and huge risk that I predicted would be the funniest movie of the summer. Let's just say that in order for me to be right, there better not be many comedies this season.
I enjoy self aware entertainment where actors play themselves and often make themselves look bad for the sake of comedy. I don't think anyone does it better than Ricky Gervais and how he gets the most out of other actors he's convinced to play along with him. It's refreshing to see our nation's royalty mock themselves and make us think we're getting a peak behind the curtain. For the most part it's very effective in This Is The End but the problem is that these guys quickly annoy the crap out you and confirm that this gang appears to be really fun to hang out with but, if this is accurate at all, would wear on your last nerves very quickly.
The most enjoyable part of the film is what they did with the plot. It's based on a short film that Baruchel and Rogen (best friends in real life) made with writers Evan Goldberg (Superbad, The Watch) and Jason Stone, who only directed this 2007 short and did nothing else. The feature version had to be much longer, have a better story and was directed by Goldberg and Rogen. That might have been a mistake becaues the tone of the film is a mess. It aims to be a comedy the whole time but drifts in-and-out of being theological dribble, a weak horror, and a Tarantino-esque ripoff. None of that is consistent and feels very amateur while watching.
Don't get me wrong, this is a funny movie. It's not for everyone and some of the more graphic parts make scenes in Superbad seem like harmless PG-13, but the comedy is very bipolar. See, the problem when you swing to hit a home run with every joke means that when you strike out, you strike out hard. For every streak of hilarious ten minutes, there's another ten minutes of groan-enducing comedic misses. Some of that might be because they weren't making a movie for us; they were making a movie for them.
At no point during the film does it not feel like an inside joke. That's not a bad thing when it's done correctly and This Is The End has huge parts where it is. But the remaining places you firmly outside the inside joke and that is not a comfortable or entertaining place to be. It's almost as if you were invited to this epic party at Franco's house but you're not one of his good friends; you're a nameless extra that they wish died with the rest of them when the End of Days hits. Normally, I would respect these guys sticking it to Hollywood by making a big budget middle finger to the industry and status quo, but for some reason it comes across as extremely self indulgent and insulting by the end of the film.
Listen, I'm no dummy nor am I a snob. This is a funny movie and it will have its ardent fans. I'm simply not one of them. This Is The End will stand as a cult classic that will be fun to watch when you're drunk or stoned with friends. Maybe that was the way it was always meant to be enjoyed and I'm too lame and responsible to watch movies like that anymore. Perhaps I was right though and this concept should have remained as the hilarious 90 second short film before it turned into a 100-minute-long punchline where these guys can't believe Hollywood let them make it...and that you paid to see it. This Is The End (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C+