To hell and back

To hell and back

Wild comedy defies good taste and delivers loads of laughs

By Tim Pompey 06/20/2013

This is the End
Directed by Seth Rogen
and Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
1 hr. 47 min.

Writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have a knack for being both funny and disgusting. For instance, Superbad — their best example of male behavior gone amok, the gold standard by which raunchy comedies are currently measured.

Well, move over, Superbad. A new champion is in town. And you can add egomania to that standard because This is the End drops any pretense of differentiating the actors from their characters. That’s right. These actors play themselves.

The talent of this writing team is that they know how to push the limits of taste and still manage to be funny. It’s one of those uncomfortable situations where you may be dismayed by what they do, but you can’t stop laughing. Maybe out of shock. Maybe because you enjoy grossness. Maybe because Rogen and Goldberg take the time to thoroughly zing themselves and their friends.

The premise is simple. Hollywood stars, including best friends Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, gather at James Franco’s new house in Hollywood to have a beastly party. Drugs. Drinking. Oral sex. You know, TMZ kind of stuff.

In the middle of the party, something horrible happens. Rogen and Baruchel witness people being pulled up through the sky via strange rays of blue light. Then the earth splits open and all their friends begin to fall into gigantic fiery holes. Worst of all, demons from hell begin to roam the neighborhood.

For the small group of survivors stuck in Franco’s house, it’s the end of the world. That’s right, the full-blown apocalypse as foretold by the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. And what they learn is that they are there because God has forsaken them. They’re the baddest of the bad. The good people have all gone to heaven.

What follows are some frank conversations about drug usage, masturbation and rape. I’m scratching the surface here, but all of this apocalyptic hijinks makes for some brutally honest dialogue among these reprobates, including a hilarious argument between Franco and Danny McBride about why McBride likes to ejaculate on Franco’s porno magazines.

If what I’ve described sounds offensive, you’re right. Anyone with any sense of decency can point out dozens of immature and inappropriate behaviors.

But here’s the rub — Rogen and Goldberg — don’t care and neither do their actors. They’re all having the times of their lives and getting paid big bucks to be boorish and piggish and any other kind of ish you can think of.

And the real kicker is that by the end of the film, you may not care either because all of this rude behavior is not just written but performed with a level of skill that only great comedians can pull off.

Why is this funny? In a word, timing. Rogen and Goldberg understand the value of shock combined with unbridled discussions about what men really think,  man’s inner animal. They’ve mined this material before;  but it seems the harder they push, the funnier it gets. This is the End crashes all their previous limits and still works.

Comedy is comedy. If it’s funny, it doesn’t matter whether a pig is puking or a man jumps off a bridge to his death. When it’s funny, you just can’t help but laugh.

And that’s the case here. This is the End is no-holds-barred disgusting. It’s also good comedy. Not insightful. Just flat-out raunchy funny. Done just because the writers like this stuff and have figured out how to make an audience laugh.

Is it OK to be disgusting just because you can get away with it? Well, you may question your own tastes. You may even chastise yourself for enjoying this film. But for Rogen and Goldberg, who went to the depths of hell to find comedy heaven, that answer seems to be a resounding yes.


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