“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 Hollywood 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 Hollywood 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 chaos outside.
            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, Irving , Texas