“This Is The End”
What a strange movie. It’s
actually several different movies in tandem.
First, it’s a tepid buddy movie.
Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel play, well, essentially, themselves, that
is, a couple of
celebrities. Rogen picks up
Baruchel from the L.A. airport, and they greet each other like long-lost pals,
and put up with the wisecracks from the random paparazzi while they make their
way back to Rogen’s new house, which is beautifully furnished, complete with
a…..toke room? Yes, they have
big plans to sit around and smoke weed. Except
that soon Rogen is begging Baruchel to go with him to a party at James
Franco’s house. Baruchel
doesn’t want to go. He
doesn’t like the whole
scene, but eventually relents.
Here’s where it turns into a boring celebrity sighting party.
Yeah, they got some A-listers there, but they aren’t doing much
except gossiping and imbibing. Lots
of inside jokes and catty put-downs. Not
compelling. Drug use, language,
ribald sexual humor…not even minimally charming.
But wait, the movie morphs again.
Some catastrophic earthquake is happening, people are disappearing into
fiery pits, lots of screaming and widespread panic, and the next thing we know
there are six guys left, holed up in the house, boarded up against the fiery
Now it’s a survivalist epic. They
look to ration their few provisions, and decide to go on drug binge.
Break out the psychedelic photography.
Then when they all sober up, they fight over the precious provisions,
and then draw lots for who has to go out and find supplies for the group.
One crazed girl appears with an axe, and she’s not afraid to swing
it. Dispatch the crazy chick.
Back to guys only. More
raunch humor, which seems curiously shrill in light of such earth-shaking
circumstances. Baruchel begins to
suggest that it’s not an earthquake at all, but the actual Apocalypse, and
reads to them (or rather liberally paraphrases) from the Book of Revelation
(chapter 11). Rogen says,
“Really, there is a God? Who
knew?” Baruchel replies, “Oh, about 95% of the population.”
When somebody curses using the name of the Deity, there ensues a
serious discussion about whether the name of Jesus Christ should be included
in the commandment, and then when the Trinity is mentioned, James Franco says,
“You know, like Neapolitan ice cream.”
Everybody seems to accept that as the last word on the subject.
If only a serious theological discussion were that easy.
Privately, Jonah Hill even prays very seriously, aloud, that God would
kill one of the other survivors.
Now the movie morphs again, into a straight-faced exorcism.
Jonah (because of his vindictive prayer?) is possessed by a demon and
has the glowing eyes, the deep double-voice, the superhuman strength, and he
is out to destroy the others. Baruchel
constructs a makeshift cross using a spatula (no, really), and seriously
invokes the name of Christ to expel the demon.
But we can’t help but descend into jokes about actors and their bad
movies. Is it possible to be
ironically satirical while self-consciously self-parodying?
Now the movie morphs again. Outside,
the enormous Beast is ruling a fiery earth, and the remaining humans are like
cannibalistic zombies. Yes,
they’re the ones left behind. What
if the Rapture has happened and you’re not among those chosen for Exit,
Stage Up? Ah, but one of their
number, who has repented aloud of his worst sin to the rest of the group, then
decides to sacrifice himself to save the others, which results in his being
carried up into heaven in a bright protective tractor beam, but then when
James Franco tries that, it almost works, except he can’t resist cursing and
flipping off his detractors on the way up, which results in his one-way ticket
being suddenly revoked: a true, pure, but misguided, salvation by works.
Ah, now the last morphing: our
two original buddies, Rogen and Baruchel, wind up being transported up to a
bright heaven where…they’re all dressed in white and dancing to an
annoying old boy-band number (The Back Street Boys as the Heavenly Chorus?).
And, they can imagine anything they want, like…their own private segue?
Sigh. Can religion really
be taken seriously in the midst of all the arrogant puerile irreverence and
persistent prurient humor? You’ll
have to decide if you’re willing to endure serial scatology and eschatology.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,