A quick glance at recent movie openings might give you the impression that Hollywood has something against humanity, which has been brought to the brink of annihilation in such films as "Oblivion," "After Earth," "Rapture-Palooza" and now "This Is the End."
On the bright side, however, "This Is the End" has something going for it that the other three don't: good reviews.
The premise of the film involves a bunch of Hollywood actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves as the apocalypse dawns, and the Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey says it's "stupidly hysterical and smartly heretical." Starting from the top, "Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's script is scathing, while their directing debut is a revelation." In terms of the cast, which includes Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson (plus lots of cameos), "everyone does a solid job of playing their hyper-realized selves."
One warning, however: "If excessive F-bombs and explicit language, graphic discussions and depictions of sex and drugs, and an extremely well-endowed devil who goes full Monty are likely to bother you, 'This Is the End' is not for you."
A.O. Scott of the New York Times calls "This Is the End" "a foul-mouthed, good-natured 'Funny or Die' sketch stretched to feature length and garnished with special effects." Lest you think that's a bad thing, Scott also says, "in places it is genuinely, even sublimely hilarious. Why shouldn’t it be? It assembles a talented, quick-tongued bunch of performers and happily dispenses with the pretense that they are playing anything other than themselves." And, "as crude as the movie’s humor often is, its spirit is sweet, sensitive and innocuous."
The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips similarly deems the film "outrageous-plus, but often hilarious." Seemingly in spite of himself, Phillips writes, "The thing really moves. Even the grottiest bits have a way of hitting their marks and darting onward, the way they did in 'Borat.'" Sure, he says, "It's a one-joke movie, full of smug, blase comic figures poking fun at their own limited resources of courage and grace under pressure. But sometimes one joke is enough."
USA Today's Claudia Puig says the best thing about the movie "is its clever way with self-parody. Less consistent is its embrace of audacious humor, inane stoner comedy and slapstick antics, including, but not limited to, gross-out jokes." On the whole, it's "uneven and about 15 minutes too long. But when it's funny, it's hilarious."
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says it's a "crass, patchy, often shamelessly funny farce" with a "playfully subversive meta-spirit," and Peter Howell of the Toronto Star says, "you may have trouble at times deciding whether to laugh out loud or to avert your horrified gaze. Either way, it will get you."
Not every critic has been won over, of course. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir writes, "I enjoyed the hell out of it for a while, but it got irritating and self-congratulatory long before it was over and I desperately do not want to see it again. I'm all in favor of movie stars making jokes at their own expense, but an entire movie based on that premise starts to seem like a suspiciously large amount of upside-down vanity."
Rogen, Franco and the rest of the gang can probably live with that. It's not the end of the world, and they've already survived that anyway.
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun