Buckeye: Kyra and I, along with our boy G-ross, just got out of This Is the End, or: The Seth Rogen Movie. You’re probably familiar with the conceit—Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jay Baruchel, all playing versions of themselves—manage to survive the apocalypse holed up in Franco’s mansion. In that respect This Is the End is, in theory, both a disaster movie parody and an excuse for them to film themselves broing around for a little while. There’s nothing wrong at all with watching this motley crew hang out with each other; in fact, that’s the reason to go to this movie rather than the disaster movie subplot. I laughed a bunch at the jokes I heard (thankfully, and oddly, this dude sitting behind us with an EXTREMELY loud laugh who was absolutely loving the trailers left just five minutes into the movie), but those jokes would’ve been funny regardless of whether the theme of the day was global apocalypse or Judd Apatow sweetness and regardless of whether the character’s name was Seth Rogen or whatever Seth Rogen’s character in Knocked Up was named (because, other than Franco and Hill, the rest of them play the same person in virtually every movie, including this one). What do you have for the folks at home Kyra?
kyra: Even though all the actors are playing ‘themselves’ in this movie, they either play the same character they play in every other movie, or an extreme caricature. For example, you could replace Seth Rogen with Cal from 40 Year Old Virgin and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. On the other side, Michael Cera is a coke-sniffing, ass-grabbing scumbag–a far cry from George Michael Bluth. Suffice to say, James Franco is the only one in the movie with any sort of range as an actor. Most of these guys you know what you’re getting, and that’s why you go to see this movie. You get funny observations from Seth Rogen, Kenny Powers from Danny McBride, the smooth, sensual comedy of Craig Robinson, etc.
All of the apocalyptic stuff appeared to be done with a light CGI budget. Every time they attempt to leave the house and brave the magma-filled and demon-infested unknown, I kept thinking they were yelling on set ‘ok pump more smoke through the cracks in the door now! aaaaaand action!’ The actual dialogue between the characters is the strength of the movie, not any of the frills they had to add to the premise to make in a fully formed picture. What would you say were your favorite parts/lines?
Buckeye: First, I’d like to repeat verbatim what Kyra said about Cera’s douchey cokehead. That was legitimately interesting and clever because it runs so contrary to our perception of Cera. The using-our-real-names-gag, though? Not as clever for the reasons Kyra said. Every Seth Rogen character might as well be called Seth Rogen, so the concept deployed in This Is the End isn’t as inventive as it may have sounded. The guys do a good job of laughing at themselves, making fun of their public perceptions as a stoner with a ridiculous laugh (Rogen), a space cadet who thinks he’s really artistic (Franco), Kenny Powers (McBride), and a diva (Hill, though I think Hill comes off much more smugly in real life than This Is the End suggests. I also think Hill, in addition to Franco, has some decent range, too—he’s Academy Award Nominee and SERIOUS THESPIAN Jonah Hill after all). A good comparison might be to contrast This Is the End with the brilliant Being John Malkovich. The latter is also self-depricating but the Malkovich-as-Malkovich performance goes beyond our expectations for what Malkovich is really like because (like “Michael Cera” here) he seems so ridiculous (and I highly doubt is best friends with Charlie Sheen in real life, as Being John Malkovich insinuates). I didn’t get much of that play on expectations from this group.
To answer your question, at the risk of coming off as insensitive the funniest stuff in the movie probably involved monstrously large cocks or that kind of humor. I won’t wade into the whole rape joke debate that’s been ongoing at places like Jezebel and Slate lately, but there is a sustained rape joke at the center of the movie—it takes up at least a couple minutes of dialogue—and I thought they pulled it off very well (the joke was on the guys giving off a “rapey vibe,” not Emma Watson, who makes a brief cameo). The movie’s version of what I assume was supposed to be the Devil was hilarious too—it’s a Balrog-type demon with an absurdly big penis that, in another bit of rape-related humor and also an allusion to Rosemary’s Baby (which if you watch Mad Men know is apparently the movie du jour for metafictional references), enters Jonah Hill. I admire this group’s willingness to be raunchy and push for R-rated humor (none of these jokes are safe) but it honestly has nothing to do with a disaster movie. What’d you make of all the dick jokes?
kyra: The rape joke bit was easily the funniest part of the movie to me. There were a number of similar types of joke set-ups where they talk about a topic for so long it becomes funny because they are talking about it for so long (such as when James Franco is arguing with McBride about where he can cum in the house). This basically was a movie comprised of of dirty jokes written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, which they then wrapped in a very weak premise in order to convey. Once it became obvious that martyrdom got you into Heaven, why did Rogen think that letting go of Jay’s hand at the end would kill him? Shouldn’t it have been clear that that was the way to get in? It just seemed a little dense to me.
There was nothing here that was new or exciting, but it was funny because Rogen and Goldberg are funny guys. I liked the sub-plot of James Franco being in love with Rogen (see: the side-by-side paintings), but even that felt like a character the movie lifted from Franco’s cameo on 30 Rock where he was in love with a pillow. Even the Backstreet Boys singing at the end is essentially a direct copy of The 40-Year Old Virgin’s Age of Aquarius riff. Yes, the referencing to the crew’s other movies was funny (such as saying they shouldn’t make a Your Highness 2 and having a sequel to Pineapple Express), but the fundamental problem is that these guys have yet to make a movie that rivals the hilarity and originality of The 40-Year Old Virgin. Maybe Superbad comes the closest, but these guys are playing the same roles over and over, and it gets old. Did I laugh a decent amount while watching this movie? Yes. Will I remember most of it? Definitely not. I don’t think the replay value and quotableness can hold a candle to their earlier work and some of the other best comedies of the past 15 years.