‘This is the End’: saving the world with laughter

The Puritans believed theatre was evil — idle tools of the devil at play. And acting? That was like gambling or stealing for a living — dishonest and definitely immoral. That’s why Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan’s latest collaboration, “This is the End,” isn’t so far fetched. Hollywood is the pit of Hell? Well, that makes sense considering our Puritan roots.

So if, let’s say, Judgment Day comes tomorrow, the Puritans would be A-OK with celebrity A-listers burning away, right?

Maybe so, but their fans wouldn’t approve. We’re fascinated by our sinner culture, our false idols, our celebrities. And we love reality TV — which is why “This is the End” is intriguing at first.

For the first time, we can browse through James Franco’s basement (where he keeps the props for all his movies) and hear Seth Rogan’s laugh (and see if it’s real). We can see our celebrities in their natural habitats: you know, with Michael Cera as a foul-mouthed womanizer and Emma Watson as an ax-wielding badass.

“This is the End,” an extended version of Goldberg and Rogan’s 2007 short, “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse,” is an end-of-the-world comedy where celebrities play caricatures of themselves.

Scripted and directed by Goldberg and Rogan, the writers of “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” “This is the End” follows Jay Baruchel’s arrival to LAX. Baruchel was looking forward to playing video games, smoking weed and bonding with his Canadian pal, Seth Rogan — not going to some elitist celebrity party at James Franco’s mansion.

But lo and behold, he did go and the world ended. Quite literally. Alien abductions, fiery sinkholes, zombies and cannibals, the whole shebang.

And while all the good people got beamed up into heaven, Baruchel, Rogan, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride were stuck on Hell on Earth — where their survival depended on each other.

This proves difficult for the six self-centered celebs, who fight over every Milky Way and water jug. Franco is a pretentious art snob, Hill is two-faced, McBride is a schmuck. And while they may act (mostly) pleasant around each other, well, we know they’re accomplished comedic actors — who’ve won Golden Globes and People’s Choice Awards and have been nominated for Oscars and Emmys.

While “This is the End” attempts at emotional sincerity (Baruchel’s grand epiphany is that he feels that he lost his pal Rogan to Franco’s celebrity in-crowd), that earnestness is lost when faced with the on-screen personas of self-entitled celebs. Rogan and Baruchel’s bromance doesn’t seem as sincere as the acting of Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in “Superbad,” Rogan and Goldberg’s loosely-autobiographical comedy about two hormonal high school BFFs. It feels cheap, engineered and well, Hollywood — complete with a feel-good deus ex machina ending.

While “This is the End” is an interesting experiment (the actors playing themselves part, not the end-of-the-world part), you can’t help but feel ripped off. Deep down, you know the actors are acting (even if they’re playing themselves). This is why they were  perceived as dishonest and immoral by Puritan standards. But by poking fun at themselves, you also know that they have given you one of life’s greatest gifts — the ability to laugh. And if this is the end, that might keep the darkness at bay just a little longer.

 “This is the End” was written and directed by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. 


3 thoughts on “‘This is the End’: saving the world with laughter

  1. Pingback: ‘Neighbors’: a non-stop party | Pass the Popcorn

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