Who knew that the end of the world and public transit would come to have so much in common. These days, the apocalypse is to the big screen what the bus is to an urban commuter – just as regular in appearance, just as forgettable an experience. Sure, sometimes the ride is a real horror show, occasionally even a comic fest, but mainly it’s a tedious, over-priced, stare-ahead-blankly trip from start to finish. Turns out that hellfire is just one more thing to be bored by – best to wear headphones and crank up your iPod.
On to the latest in last-days hilarity, This Is the End, which apparently enjoyed a beginning as a short sketch that got posted online to considerable attention. Then again, cats-that-look-like-Hitler are posted online to considerable attention, and they don’t get stretched into a feature flick. (Okay, not yet anyway.) But this sketch did, because some famous folks made it, and now more famous folks have gathered to huff and puff and inflate the little notion to nearly two hours – a long commute by any measure.
Which famous folks, you might eagerly ask? Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, who, having all worked together in the past, reconvene to portray Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco ... well, you get the idea. This time, the comic actors are playing themselves, or at least heightened versions of themselves, a shortcut that has the immediate merit of dispensing with all that time-consuming business of creating actual characters. Better yet, since comedy is the ostensible metier of comic actors, one might think the dudes would be, you know, funny. Sorry, not really.
There are a few laughs at the start of This Is the End, and a couple more at the end of This is the End. As for the endless middle, it’s middling. Plot? Rogen picks up Baruchel at the L.A. airport, and the fellow Canucks make their way to Franco’s modernist mansion for a house party, where still other famous folks tender cameos, like Michael Cera who snorts coke and savours the pleasures of two attractive females in one large bathroom and then gets impaled on a lamppost – our first hint that the apocalypse is nigh.
It’s not just that the earth has quaked, hardly cause for alarm in California. No, there are belching fires too. There’s a horned and, judged by its impressively sized member, horny monster. And a vast pit plunging into the very jaws of hell. Frankly, with nothing much to laugh at, I was tempted to jump but, since it was still early and optimism is my middle name, I tarried.
So, unfortunately, do Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, McBride, Hill and Robinson, who hunker down in the house to wait out doomsday, or the movie, whichever finishes first. Provisions being low, they squabble over a Milky Way. Heads being decapitated, they use one for a soccer ball. More productively, if no more amusingly, they dream up a sequel to Pineapple Express.
Someone masturbates, someone else projectile vomits – together, they capture to perfection the dominant aesthetic of this clubby exercise in self-admiration and spewed improvising. Speaking of which, Rogen, in conjunction with his writing buddy Evan Goldberg, also directs, although that would suggest the picture possesses a sense of direction. It doesn’t, unlike, say, a bus. And so my opening analogy comes to its own premature end.
Admittedly, there is one divine argument made here: that the existence of the apocalypse is de facto proof of the existence of God. If so, let’s hope He ain’t a critic. If not, I’m happy to play God again, bringing down His wrath on the lazy and the privileged and the mirthless.