Sunday, September 29, 2013

DVD Review: 'This is the End' plays into hands of Franco, Rogen fans

<halloweentown high dvdp>Brad Pitt kissed the world goodbye. The "Shaun of the Dead" folks did, too.

But none of the A-level stars quite approached doomsday like James Franco's crowd.

"This is the End" sends up that whole good old boys club that has produced so many new millennium comedies.

"Pineapple Express," "Superbad" and "Knocked Up" set the stage for something like this - something so meta it's like visiting a fraternity and knowing the secret handshake.

Playing heightened versions of themselves, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill drop by James Franco's house for what they think is just another Hollywood party. Instead, it's the end of the earth - the Apocalypse, as Baruchel discerns.

Stuck in a bachelor pad that reflects its owner's self-involvement ("This place is like a piece of me," Franco says), they figure out how to survive while sinkholes and fires claim dozens of lesser friends.

Stuffed with star cameos (Rihanna, Mindy Kaling and a very funny Michael Cera among them), "This is the End" namechecks plenty of stars, shows and reputations. It trumps up a feud between Hill and Baruchel, hints at Franco's sexuality and lets Emma Watson put a boot to her reputation as Harry Potter's Hermione.

And then? The film - co-written and co-directed by Rogen - takes on a horror film vibe. A beast emerges from the ground and threatens to take out everyone involved.

Easily, you can see how this story was hatched while the guys were actually at a James Franco party. It sends up TMZ, rap stars and entourages. It proves the stars are as enamored with sci-fi films as their fans.

Of the bunch, McBride is most consistently funny. He's the rogue friend who eats the remaining food, disses the host and ad libs with purpose. When he grabs a second glass of water "This is the End" reaches out to audiences who have never heard of "Freaks and Geeks."

But as delightful as it may be for fans, "This is the End" is just as niche-y as the NBC series that introduced Apatow's army.

Too inside to be embraced by a large audience, it'll have to hope for repeat viewings to justify another excellent adventure.

When it turns horror filmish (you know because Hill changes from the charming "Moneyball" star to something else), it's a quick sprint to the blue light special ending.

Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg save a surprise for the end (it's a good one) but seem exhausted.

"This is the End" looks like every 2 a.m. idea they ever came up with put in one project.

Franco, Hill and McBride play along nicely and Michael Cera is so uncommonly good someone should tap into the persona he introduces.

"This is the End" won't stand as the funniest film of the summer but it will give the "Pineapple Express" crowd something substantial to chew on while a director like Apatow decides what to do next.

Source: Siouxcityjournal

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