16 October 2013 | drqshadow-reviews
Good For a Few Huge Laughs, It's Not as Consistent as You May Have Heard
Seth Rogen and his usual entourage of stoner near-celebrities return to the screen, this time propped against the backdrop of a biblical end-of-world scenario. There's a certain taste of playful irony in the fact that so many of these actors, Rogen, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride especially, who share the common criticism of merely playing themselves throughout their careers, are doing so literally this time around. They're able to play that up to ridiculous extremes and big laughs in the long-form party scene that eats up most of the first act, riffing and rolling with the punches in their never-ending quest to make the cast and crew smile. Predictably, that's the film's sweet spot - a blank slate for ad-lib spoils - and when it's finally cast aside to make way for a more coherent narrative (admittedly, a very loose one) their ship springs a big leak. Where a more thoroughly-incubated concept like Shaun of the Dead is able to easily blend quick, witty banter with big set pieces and wild, frenzied action, This is the End struggles to unify an equally diverse toolbox. I can get the fish-out-of-water aspect that was being fronted here, of a catered group of celebrities who were lost when their smartphones dropped off the grid, but that runs out of gas near the three-quarter mark and when the big special effects swing and miss, there's nothing left to carry us the rest of the way. Really uproariously funny at a few points, but pointlessly thin and overblown at others.
Additional thoughts after a recent re-watch:
Like a lot of Rogen and company's films, I think this works far better if you fit one or two descriptions: happy-intoxicated or just in the mood for something completely mindless. Last night I was both, and man did it hit a sweet spot. Of course, the opening party scene has the greatest bits - actors and celebrities poking fun at themselves and the vapid public image that typifies their slice of pop culture - but it also functions well when the crowd is significantly reduced and the plot shifts from a snappy ensemble comedy to a much smaller crew in the midst of a disaster. The transition from dialog-driven laughs to a frantic survival parody is so sudden, the only thing I can compare it to is the infamous directorial shift of From Dusk Till Dawn. This is the End, though, pulls off that wheel jerk more than once. Of course, such swerves cause the storyline to spiral completely out of control, but that unpredictability is partially what makes it so stupidly entertaining. Not something I'd want to watch most nights, but it's also more consistently knee-slap funny than I remembered. Upon review, I'd upgrade my original score from an 6 to an 8.