This Is the End feat

This Is the End: a petty apocalypse

A gathering of narcissistic celebutards and vain Hollywood types gathered for a party that happens to coincide with the Rapture and the subsequent end of the world? How could this go wrong?

Instead try: how could this go right? How can you trust people to satirise themselves and do so with sufficient bite and astuteness? How can you trust them to not salve their egos with a happy ending and the suggestion that, actually, despite all their problems they’re actually pretty good people?

Early on we appear to be on a solid heading, portraying almost all of its characters as being despicable and stupid (or so wasted as to not know or care about the difference). Everyone plays a spin on a ridiculously over-amplified version of themselves: selfishness and narcissism is ramped up, though all these successful individuals remain well-regarded because that is how American comedies appear to function now: the ascension of the douchebag (except, apparently, to heaven).

When the odious shitbags you’ve just spent half an hour enduring are slaughtered in an impressively grotesque earth-splitting scene, initial impressions seem to be confirmed. Rogen and Baruchel, the buddies at the heart of what is ultimately a buddy movie, fall at the first hurdle as Rogen flees the scene without helping his friend. Almost all of the party guests tumble into a chasm of hellfire whilst demonstrating a total aversion to the idea of helping anyone else. All the forced camaraderie of the party scenes falls apart, supporting one of the most genuinely enjoyable moments of the film.

Unfortunately the film subsequently loses its way, apparently lacking clear direction. I could go on about how a bunch of arseholes being stuck in a house will always struggle to generate the tension of a siege scenario because it’s hard to care about arseholes. Or I could mention how the film lurches from set piece to set piece, most proving unmemorable, having apparently blown its creative wad on the concept, the set-up and the unleashing of hell.

But the greatest problem with this film is that it is one great big blowjob for American buddy films, in which friendship trumps all to the outright exclusion of everything else. To wit: our ‘heroes’ are judged to be of sufficiently small moral worth to not be raptured away at the get go. Later we see someone who attempts to sacrifice themselves to save others being raptured away – fair call! Shortly after another character makes a cynical play at the same – but is dropped like a hot potato after he taunts his pursuers. I guess God really isn’t omniscient, or at least only cares about lip service.

But apologising? That is an act that can welcome one to Heaven? Apologising to your best bud about the fact that you’re a self-absorbed prick?

If only everyone else who tumbled into the fires of hell or was devoured by demons had been aware that bro-exceptionalism rules were in play. If only they had realised that the Almighty himself was less concerned with the life that someone has led, the acts they make and the words they speak, instead only requiring a quick acknowledgement of a few of many personal problems.

In This Is the End it’s apparent that God is an arse, the rich and idle of Hollywood are arses, human beings are generally arses and let’s not even get into the demons. Unfortunately it does not take long for asshole on asshole action to stop delivering even weak gags successfully and just begin to grate.

Rarely has a collision of the apocalyptic and the comedic been so dull, and rarely has it been so witless as to undermine the only things it had going for it – its half-hearted criticism of idle and narcissistic celebrity, and the idea that being buds might not be enough after all.

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