“This is the End” is a film that suffers from a serious identity crisis. On one hand, it’s a funny, winking look at celebrities coping with the apocalypse while on the other, it’s a comedy where the filmmakers threw ideas against a wall and used everything that stuck, smeared or stained.
With just a little more focus and restraint, this first-time directorial effort from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing team responsible for “Superbad” “Pineapple Express” and “The Green Hornet,” could have been a classic instead of just being unpredictably crass.
Rogen plays himself welcoming his pal, Jay Baruchel (“Tropic Thunder”), for a fun trip to L.A. kicking off with a trip to James Franco’s housewarming. Jay already isn’t comfortable around Seth’s L.A. crew of Franco (“Oz the Great and Powerful”), Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and especially Jonah Hill, but things get far worse when the world comes to an end and the book of Revelations comes to life complete with hellfire pits and demons on the loose.
There’s mini “Superbad,” “I Love You Man” and “Knocked Up” reunions as well in addition to bizarre, but great appearances from Emma Watson and Rihanna just for fun too.
Stuck in Franco’s house with no hope for rescue and growing ever more desperate, the six stars have to overcome their egos, entitlement and cliques if they have any chance of survival.
The film plays out like “Shaun of the Dead” with half the wit, double the filth and enough juvenile humor to make Seth MacFarlane blush. There’s enough similarities to MacFarlane’s hit “Ted” that it feels like he should have a co-writer credit.
Occasionally, Rogan and Goldeberg craft some clever gems like the sequel to “Pineapple Express” and pay off on some throwaway jokes that foreshadow some hilarious cameos. They handle the directing chores like experienced comedy and horror movie vets and the movie even with its special effects, doesn’t feel like a first-time effort if only they had someone to reel them in some.
At times, it’s so perversely entertaining you’ll feel bad for laughing so hard while other scenes make Rogen and Goldeberg come across like two pre-teens who discovered their father’s supply of weed, booze, porn and a video camera.
There’s no joke too tasteless or subject matter too taboo for them to tackle. Rogen and Goldberg have a very odd penis fetish and struggle to go 10-minutes without talking about one or showing one to the point that the penis jokes become their go-to crutch when they can’t think of a better punch line.
By the first hour, Rogen and Goldberg seem out of tricks beyond finding more vile and disgusting ways to shock the audience. Maybe it’s possible for a director to make demon raping and urine drinking side-achingly funny, but that wasn’t the case here.
You can tell the cast had an absolute blast making the film — Robinson is the film’s MVP as he’s almost chameleon-like in tackling whatever is thrown at him and Hill and Franco are also a lot of fun.
There’s few things as frustrating as watching a promising comedy take the cheap and easy way out and rely on shock humor when its filmmakers are capable of so much more.
“This is the End” hints that Rogen and Goldberg have promising directing careers ahead of them provided they’re willing to go beyond the sixth-grade humor that derails their debut effort, but this was hell to sit through for me.
Rating: 3 out of 10