Friday, June 14, 2013

This is the End [2013]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (O. Henderson) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

After one gets past (if one can get past...) the often hard-R crudity of the film (men's genitalia, though surprisingly not women's, are everywhere in this film) as well as, at least in the first 20 minutes or so, all the drugs, This is the End [2013] (screenplay and directed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg based on the short film "Jay and Seth vs the Apocalypse" by Jason Stone) is actually, surprisingly, not too bad ;-), IMHO anyway ... ;-).

The film is basically about the question: What would you do if you and most of your friends suddenly found yourselves in the midst of Biblical Apocalypse [TM]?

So Seth Rogan and friend/actor Jay Baruchel visiting Rogan in L.A. from Canada (all the actors in the film play themselves) decide to go to a party being thrown by James Franco at his new house somewhere in Beverly Hills.  Actually, Baruchel isn't all that comfortable with Rogan's new "Hollywood" friends but allows himself to be talked into it. When they get to the Party, it's exactly what they expected and perhaps Baruchel feared: Franco's house is absolutely filled with other young stars, some that they know, others that they did not.  They're all cool, mellow, stoned, many, both male and female quite horny, but most of all, let's face it, quite shallow.  WHAT'S COOL ABOUT THIS FILM IS THAT IT FREELY ADMITS THIS (that they're mostly Shallow [TM]) and EVEN  ADMITS THAT THIS IS ACTUALLY A PROBLEM. I honestly have difficulty putting down a film where the actors themselves largely (if with a smile) put themselves down.

So after some time of dutifully exchanging small-talk with Franco and Jonah Hill that Baruchel finds phony anyway, he excuses himself outside to look for a smoke.  Eventually Rogan follows him, and two walk to a drugstore some blocks away buy said pack of cigarettes.

It's at this point that suddenly the earth starts shaking and strangely enough some people INCLUDING A CATHOLIC PRIEST as well as a YOUNG FATHER AND DAUGHTER are sent-up by blue beams to what appears to be the Heavens, while the earth opened under others, including the crabby lady at the cash register who had just refused let said young father's little girl use the bathroom (even though it was obvious that she really, really had to go) until said father "bought something at the store...," sending these down into the Depths.

What the heck is going on?  Seth, in his ever-smiling, stoned, slacker persona doesn't have a clue.  Baruchel, impressed by the blue beams carrying the Priest and the young Father and Daughter up into Heaven, immediately "understands."

The two rush back to Franco's party amid scarred/buckled roads, flaming landscaping and ruins of houses only to find that the folks at the "rockin' party" incredibly DIDN'T NOTICE A THING.  Well that soon changes as the Earth really starts shaking and most of the guests run out of the house only to have the earth open under them and most of them falling straight into what appears to be a gigantic Lava Pit below.

The only ones left of Franco's party appear to be Franco, Rogan, Baruchel, Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson.  (Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame makes a brief appearance later).  What the heck happened?  And what to do now?

Well they first decide to barricade themselves in Franco's home, still standing, and "wait it out."  But they have almost no food and everything around them is burning.  Then all sorts of strange, powerful and more or less obviously Demonic beasts seem to lurk outside and progressively work to break their way in.

Now what would you do facing this kind of a situation?  That's essentially what the film's about.  And let's face it, the remaining group in this film is a bunch of basically harmless "party heartiers" who never really meant to do Evil and yet were never particularly interested in doing Good either.  (Is the Reader here particularly surprised then to find these people quite literally in Limbo? ;-) ;-)

So this group of basically good natured and often still buzzed slackers finds itself progressively forced to confront some basic questions, notably: Why are we still here? EVERYBODY ELSE seems to be either UPSTAIRS or DOWNSTAIRS.  And what do we need to do to get out of here before the Demons outside finally break down the doors and devour us?

And another cool thing about this film is that some of the members of this cast allow their character personas in this film to END-UP BADLY (devoured or in Hell) while others of course come to "choose wisely" and end up in Heaven.

Truthfully as "crude" as this film is (and again there are a heck of a lot of penises in this film ... and of all kinds of sizes ...) if one can get past that, this is a pretty good and arguably edifying film.

It's the kind of film that one can talk about over a few beers (or yes, Mr Rogan, over a few jays...) and perhaps make some fundamental progress.

Yes, in this life we are asked to fundamentally choose to do Good.  And yes, a lot of our actions (like enjoying a few of those said cold ones or even that jay or two ...) are not necessarily Evil ... but they're NOT NECESSARILY GOOD EITHER.  And when it comes down to it, we're asked to do Good.

So honestly, a surprisingly good job folks!  You've posed for the rest of us a number of rather fundamental questions.  Now can we respond by (1) choosing TO DO BETTER, and (2) dare one dream, progressively lay-off of those things that aren't necessarily GOOD or EVIL but ultimately distract us from DOING GOOD or at least DOING BETTER?

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