The problem with "This Is the End" is that it’s two movies in one. A mopey drama about the decaying friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, as played by Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, the other a star studded apocalypse movie parody. If the film were just made up of end of world material, it would easily rank as one of the year’s funniest movies, taken as a whole it’s yet another self-indulgent comedy about wealthy and emotional dishonest man-children and there’s really no more tiresome a subgenre in 2013.
It’s easy to understand why writer/directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg anchored all their rape and gay jokes around what is essentially a story about two friends coming to realize that they’ve grown apart. As spending years as part of a wildly successful comedy collective headed up by writer/director Judd Apatow, the guys can’t credibly create a story about young people struggling to reach their potential anymore. So they’ve instead chose to draw from the stagnate well of the Hollywood takedown. At a debauched party thrown by James Franco (doing a carefully observed impersonation of the public perception of James Franco), Brauchel and Roegn encounter an insufferably egotistical Jonah Hill, a sex and drug crazed Michael Cera and a generally affable Craig Robinson right before the Rapture occurs.
The first part of the film is exceptionally funny in places, mostly due to the contrasts between public persona and private behavior but as the surviving cast decides to hole up in Franco’s fortress like mansion until the crisis passes, the films becomes painfully soggy. As resources dwindle, the group begins to fracture and the long term tensions between Burachel and Rogen come to the fore but instead giving the “The End” some dramatic heft, everyone comes off as petty and self-interested pushing the film into the same space as a “Final Destination” sequel, where you can’t wait for the awful people to get violently picked off.
If it seemed plausible that turning the audience against the cast was the filmmakers’ intent, they should be lauded for their audacity. But that’s not the case, Rogen and Goldberg simply assumed that by keeping things funny and reuniting the leads at the end, that they would earn their wallow in ugliness. Rancid gay panic jokes and an unsettling discomfort with women (Emma Watson cameos in the film one long rape joke) can be overlooked (most Judd Apatow films) if the central characters are interesting but Rogen and Baruchel exit the film as obnoxious as the enter it. Bizarrely, Rogen and Goldberg perfectly demonstrate the unlikable sympathetic character principle by featuring Danny McBride as a hilarious monster who ends up being the most appealing character in the film by virtue of being the only one with any assertiveness.
Success has destroyed more artists than easily accessible cocaine so Seth Rogen and his friends can be forgiven for turning to ungainly introspection for creative fuel but eventually everyone runs out of things to say, especially within a well-adorned bubble like Hollywood but if the best thing that can be said of the result of $32 million and room full of creative, funny people is a movie that can best described as better than "The Green Hornet," it might be time to hang it up.
Special features: commentary with Rogen and Goldberg, eight featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes, the Jay & Seth vs. the Apocalypse short on which the film is based and a digital copy of the film.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com.