THIS IS THE END. Hollywood stars playing themselves and a biblical apocalypse

“This Is the End” had it all – a cool idea of confronting Hollywood’s elite with biblical apocalypse, a horde of celebrity stars making fun of themselves, freedom in using language...

Krzysztof Bogumilski

31 January 2024

this is the end

How I dislike such cinematic experiences. It starts well, with an interesting initial idea, the potential well utilized in the first few minutes, and a high final rating lingering in the mind. And then, with pain, I watch as the idea dissipates, the potential degrades, and the final rating drastically plummets. Unpleasant and disappointing. Unfortunately, quite a common phenomenon in contemporary American comedies. “This Is the End” had it all – a cool idea of confronting Hollywood’s elite with biblical apocalypse, a horde of celebrity stars making fun of themselves, freedom in using language unrestricted by age categories. It lacked only one thing – a good screenplay.

It was evident that the project didn’t fully work from the first minutes. Seth Rogen, somewhat stiff, seemingly uncomfortable in portraying himself, an artificial atmosphere in scenes with stars, and a constant taste of a Funny Or Die sketch stretched into a feature-length plot. These are the first signs of the apocalypse awaiting us during the screening, and I’m not talking about the plot-related apocalypse.

this is the end

Before we start realizing that something didn’t click, the idea didn’t fully work, and the plot was written hastily, we’re having quite a good time. For about half an hour. The minor glitches I mentioned earlier are just small scratches that are easy to ignore (and we really want to), as we still believe in the project. Not without reason. The screen is filled with a squadron of stars, portraying exaggerated versions of themselves, mocking their media personalities, and openly making fun of them. There are plenty of delights, references understandable to cinephiles, amusing jokes, and various silliness that elicits a smile (e.g., the movie banner “Ninja Rapist”). It may not be an outstanding satire of Hollywood, nor particularly biting. In fact, it has little to do with satire. The celebrities mock themselves but don’t bite the hand that feeds them, don’t expose any truths about the industry, don’t criticize the world of cinema. They just loosen up a bit and make fun of themselves to the audience’s delight (in this regard, Michael Cera definitely steals the show, flipping his movie image). And it works, but only for a short time.

We reach the culmination of the first act, the arrival of Armageddon, and the focus on the five comedic actors condemned to camp under one roof. And then it turns out that the original ideas of the two screenwriters ended there. They probably, during some extended session with a big joint, came up with the idea of making a stoner movie with hellfire in the background. The problem is, in translating this idea into the screenplay, they probably didn’t part ways with Indian hemp. The plot is diluted, filled with various nonsense, intended to be funny but hitting the humorous bullseye only once in a while. Stoner movies are designed for group viewings, preferably enhanced by passing a joint from hand to hand. For a viewer drifting towards altered states of consciousness, the plot may be just right; not everything has to make sense, and during dull scenes, one can contemplate the carpet’s texture and burst into laughter from time to time for any reason. Otherwise, you have to brace yourself for pushing through numerous unfunny scenes, poor jokes, excessively stretched gags that would work in a shorter form but are exploited beyond measure. And you simply have to like this kind of silly atmosphere, not necessarily idiotic but far from normality. Sometimes it’s even a certain value of the movie when, from embarrassment about what we’re watching (oh, there are such moments), we don’t know whether nervous laughter or a shy sinking into the chair is more appropriate.

this is the end

To make matters worse, although the story is not really long, it starts to drag a bit towards the end. Those familiar with cinema, known names, and popular comedies of recent years will undoubtedly find many positive elements in numerous film references, jokes about the characters’ previous work, and various funny episodic performances that I decided not to mention to not spoil the enjoyment for anyone. A foretaste of this is the false trailer for the “Pineapple Express” sequel, which has been circulating on the Internet for some time and is featured in the movie. But unfortunately, these tidbits alone are not enough to maintain interest in the story; they can only sweeten certain drawbacks. If they constitute the film’s primary value, something is wrong, and they should find their place on platforms like CollegeHumor and Funny Or Die.

However, it must be acknowledged that this is an opinion written from the perspective of a sober viewer after a solitary cinema screening. People who experience it in a large group, in the haze of alcohol and THC, will probably shake their heads someday, wondering what’s going on with this strange, sad, gloomy reviewer. Well…