19 October 2000 | Mister-6
The living "End"....
Death is serious business, no doubt. No moreso than the people who come in contact with it. In fact, is there ANYTHING funny about dying?
If you're Burt Reynolds and you find out you only have a few months left to live, then YES. And the evidence is in one of his maiden directing efforts, "The End".
As a terminally-ill man, Reynolds practically drives himself crazy trying to get his life in order and end it at the same time. However, he has to deal with an inattentive ex-wife (Woodward), flaky parents (Loy and O'Brien), an even-flakier girlfriend (Field), an overly-mature daughter (MacNicol), a dense lawyer (Steinberg), a novice priest (Benson) and a schizophrenic mental patient (DeLuise) who wants to help Reynolds reach his end goal in the worst way.
The topic is morbid, to be sure, but there are indeed (dark) laughs here. Reynolds' hand never falters and he makes the most of every scene he's in as a man who's at the end of his rope (literally, in one case) and can find no solace even in chasing down a funeral procession to find out what the guy in the hearse died of.
To say that DeLuise steals the movie isn't enough; he steals it, runs for the border, makes a clean getaway and never looks back. There is more bad taste to be had when we discover his character is Polish and Dom then rattles off a few bad Polish jokes to Reynolds. "Kids can be cruel", Reynolds consoles. "What kids", DeLuise responds, "I heard these from my parents!" How inspiringly nasty. My one favorite scene has to be where Dom tries to help Burt jump out of the bell tower in the mental institution he is incarcerated in (You're right: it's not high enough!"). It's great and there's a lot more scenes like that, sprinkled throughout.
For some of us, though, it's hard to laugh at suicide, let alone death. But the morbid, gallows humor here doesn't celebrate death like a lot of bigger-budget movies do - this is a movie about life, living and doing everything you can while you have the chance. And THAT is really what "The End" is about - not the end but everything you do before the end gets here. And in that respect, Burt succeeds.
Eight stars and a golden noose for "The End" - the movie that'll make you love life...and think twice about coming near Dom DeLuise with a Polish joke. Ever.