This Is the End

You’re glad when This Is the End comes to an end. Sure, it’s got some laughs, particularly early on, and its emotional end is kind of warm, but otherwise, this is a self-indulgent flick that should never have been expanded from the short film it is based on.

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The deets:

Released June 12, 2013

Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the short film by Jason Stone

Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen

Starring Rihanna, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, and cameos from plenty of other celebs.

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

In This Is the End, the actors play characters that are ostensibly more nutzo and ridiculous versions of themselves.

Story

Jay Baruchel arrives in LA to spend a weekend or so with his pal, Seth Rogen. They have a day of video games and pot smoking and wind up at James Franco’s house for a big party. Baruchel is anti-social and doesn’t really want to be there, but he goes at Seth’s urging.

At the party are a large number of recognizable faces, including Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, the names listed above, and the sadly unfunny Kevin Hart. Before long, Baruchel wants to ditch the festivities, but Rogen convinces him to stick around. But then the Rapture happens and the Apocalypse shows up and everything goes to pot.

None of the celebrities are taken up in the initial Rapture. Most of them die messily, leaving the group of Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Robinson, and McBride to try to find a way to survive the apocalypse. Baruchel starts quoting from the book of Revelations, although the quotes we hear aren’t really from the Bible; they’re paraphrases and purely made up.

After a fiasco with Emma Watson, the group of selfish survivors has to figure out what’s going on. Finally they come to a realization that they might need to be nice to others, leading to the final scenes where friendship and sacrifice lead to a very disturbing vision of heaven.

Critique

The central premise of This Is the End is funny enough for a skit or very short film: celebrities play awful versions of themselves shoved into an apocalyptic situation wherein they do desperate things to stay alive. The visions of Cera being some kind of girl magnet and these people being more awful to others than we could imagine provide several very funny moments. There are even some solid scenes of dialogue and physical comedy that provide bright spots.

But the story takes a back seat to gross-out humor and celebrities making tongue-in-cheek jokes that seem designed to make the audience think, “Gosh these guys are cool and don’t take themselves seriously.”

Only Franco really was able to find an actual character to play and he does a bang up job. Everybody else coasts and the film drags and its payoff is, while momentarily warming and entertaining, pretty flat.

Ultimately, This Is the End has one joke that it tells over and over in several different ways, and that joke can’t carry the film through some truly gross and graphic language and visuals and scenes. This is a lazy, self-indulgent, mostly flat, surprisingly boring movie.

Stay away from this one. Why audiences loved the movie so much says very bad things about the people who love it.

Content warnings: Everything bad and awful you can imagine is in this, save for female nudity. Language, bloody violence, etc– all there.

Writing: 1          Acting: 2.5          Overall: 1.5

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Paul

Paul gets a few things right, a few things wrong, and is overall somewhat enjoyable because it knows how to mine a single joke for all of its humor.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released March 18, 2011

Written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

Directed by Greg Mottola

Starring Kristen Wiig, Sigourney Weaver, Mia Stallard, Jane Lynch, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, David Koechner, Jesse Plemons, Jeffrey Tambor, and Seth Rogen’s voice

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Paul opens with a scene of a girl (Stallard) with her dog having a close encounter. Then we fast forward many years and find Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) on tour in America. They’re British bachelors who love science fiction and they have attended a great conference in Las Vegas and are now driving a rented RV around the west, visiting all the important sites involved in alien visitations.

Graeme and Clive encounter some bullies (Koechner and Plemons), and then encounter Paul (Rogen), an alien who has escaped from the government after some 50 years of custody. Paul knows more about American culture than do these Britons and he has assimilated into American culture and language well, despite being obviously an alien.

So Graeme and Clive go on the run with Paul, and are chased by Zoil (Bateman), who appears to be a stone-cold killer and his underlings Haggard (Hader) and O’Reilly (Truglio). But that’s not all. Graeme and Clive meet a born again religionist named Ruth (Wiig), who is blind in one eye and whose religious doctrine precludes any chance at extra-terrestrial life.

Now all are on the madcap, sometimes droll, sometimes actually entertaining journey of their lives.

Critique

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost know how to set up a joke and deliver multiple punchlines for it. There is plenty of that going on, although some of the jokes strain the audience’s tolerance, particularly in the area of Ruth, whose extreme ‘Christianity’ is made fun of at length. This particularly line of jokes is intermittently funny, but too often the humor feels like commentary of some sort, and the jokes are going after easy, lame targets.

The twist with Paul’s character is that while he is an alien, he is crass, has a healthy libido, and is totally irreverent– and is thus not very ‘alien.’ This results in quite a few funny moments, but also gets a little old, until the movie starts allowing Paul to have an arc along with arc his new chauffeurs/companions experience.

One of the major winners for this movie is the pacing and the presence of a wide array of fun characters. Hader is particularly a joy as Haggard, the underling with ambition and who might just end up being too smart for anyone’s good– especially his.

We get treated to Sigourney Weaver’s voice, as she is the boss running Zoil’s efforts to track down Paul. We also get treated to David Koechner’s great comedic timing, as well as Wiig’s remarkable fearlessness.

So, setting aside some of the too-easy targets for humor and a bit too much crass humor, Paul mostly delivers a good time. Pegg and Frost have great chemistry and the effects are totally non-distracting. It’s a pretty good movie, but it won’t appeal to a very wide audience. To enjoy it, you’d have to be a fan of Pegg and Frost, as well as a bit of a science fiction geek.

Content warnings: Lots of very salty language, some sexual references and the like.

Writing: 4          Acting: 4          Overall: 3.5

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