This Is the End, by Albert W. Vogt III

This Is the End (2013) is a wildly inappropriate movie.  The only thing it lacks in vice is nudity.  Everything else you can think of is in it.  My usual instinct is to avoid these kinds of films.  I do not think you should see this one, either.  Yet, there is a small glimmer of value in the film, albeit found only by twisting around the plot as only this Catholic reviewer can do.  As I will describe in greater detail, the Bible plays a major role here, and it acknowledges the existence of Heaven and hell.  It is, of course, a loose interpretation of scripture as is the Hollywood way.  I will still take it.  Cinema seems to only want to give credence to our Lord and Savior in horror flicks, usually having to do with possession.  I do not understand the insistence on showing such themes without also demonstrating that God in His love is stronger than any evil.  This is my main problem with The Exorcist (1973).  This conversation is germane to This Is the End because the latter directly references the former at one point, but that will be discussed later.  Anyway, on with the review!

Before I go further in this discussion of This Is the End, it should be noted that all the performers are playing themselves. Hence, when I say that we open with Seth Rogen at the airport waiting for his best friend Jay Baruchel to arrive, they are not characters but rather the actual people.  It is implied that the two have not seen each other for a while.  While both are movie stars of Canadian extraction, Jay prefers to stay in the land of his birth while Seth lives in Tinsel Town.  Regardless, Seth is excited to welcome Jay, and has prepared an afternoon of video games and weed.  Unremarkably, this begins to get old and now they must decide what to do next.  Against Jay’s wishes, they head to a party of other young Hollywood luminaries being hosted at James Franco’s new swanky house in Beverly Hills.  At the party is where the majority of the inappropriateness happens, particularly with the activities of Michael Cera, which need not be enumerated.  Though everyone is friendly, Jay senses the falseness of Hollywood as exemplified by Jonah Hill.  As such, he soon leaves the party to head to a convenience store to buy cigarettes, accompanied by Seth, who is trying to understand why his friend is upset.  It is while they are in the store that everything goes to pot.  First there is an earthquake, and then many of the others around the two friends are engulfed in blue beams of light before disappearing into the sky.  Chaos is breaking out all over, and Jay and Seth navigate it, making it back to the party.  Unsurprisingly, they find the revelers unaffected, but they sound the alarm and the guests spill into the front yard.  As they survey the damage from James’ house on a hill, a large hole opens in front of them, and a significant portion of these young stars are sucked down into hell.  Those who are not taken to the hot place are killed by various other means.  This leaves only five people left in the house of which they are aware: Craig Robinson, James, Jay, Jonah, and Seth.  It is only now that they accept that something serious is happening, and they begin preparing the house for the eponymous event.  They awaken the next morning to find that they are joined by a sixth, Danny McBride.  He had slept through everything in a bathtub, and he is found in the kitchen burning through their carefully counted food supplies by making a large breakfast.  This is the beginning of a series of awful behaviors on Danny’s part that do little to help with their survival.  Eventually, Danny is kicked out of the house completely for deliberately wasting water out of spite.  What also seemingly unnerves them is Jay’s discovery of the book of Revelation in the Bible.  The more he delves into it, the more he sees it as explaining their predicament.  All the others seem to be annoyed by this, er, revelation, especially Jonah.  He becomes openly resentful of Jay, and it leads to him being possessed by the devil.  Believing Jay a little more now, they team up to subdue Jonah.  Once they have him tied up, Jay attempts an impromptu exorcism that does not go well.  Luckily for them all (I will explain more about this in a moment), the only really bad outcome of this botched ceremony is that it burns down James’ house.  Now outside, which is patrolled by flying demons, they are going to try to make it to James’ house in Malibu.  To get them on their way, Craig sacrifices himself and is immediately shot into Heaven.  Unfortunately, along their route, they run into a gang of cannibals headed by Danny, who is in no mood to let his former friends pass.  James tries to emulate Craig, but flips the bird on the way up, is denied rapture, and killed.  Still, it is enough of a window for Jay and Seth to escape, though they run straight into a giant satan rampaging across the land with an enormous . . . well, let us just leave it at that.  At any rate, Jay and Seth must reconcile the differences between them to save themselves.  When they do, Craig is at the Pearly Gates waiting to give them entrance.  And apparently they reside above happily ever after, smoking marijuana and listening to the Back Street Boys.

I could dwell on the farcical nature of Heaven in This Is the End.  I could lay into the ridiculous interpretation of Revelation.  Simply put, little of what is in the Bible is portrayed in the film.  I could be critical of the poor decision to attempt an exorcism.  There is a reason why the Catholic Church does not let any parish priest, let alone lay people, perform the rite.  There are dangers worse than bodily harm and natural death, and the devil can inflict all them on you if you are not careful.  Instead, what I find interesting is the discovery of what it takes to get into Heaven.  When the end comes, as surely it will one day, again, I doubt it will happen as you see here, though there will be the souls that immediately rise to God.  This has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries.  How exactly this takes place is not important.  The more salient point is that not everyone is going to get into Heaven.  In some respects, the film gets the stereotypical view of Hollywood correct.  If you pay attention to such things, it appears that the majority of those residing in their Beverly Hills mansions are the most self-serving creatures among us.  The movie does not shy away from this label, and this is underscored when the bulk of James’ party guest end up going to hell.  It is remarkable what it takes for some people to change their ways, and in many respects when it does come it is the end of the world for them.  People like those you see in the film live in their own bubbles, and they needed the literal end times in order to see the benefits of helping others.  Will Heaven actually be like what you see here?  Again, I doubt it.  We mortals tend to fantasize about what the afterlife will be like, and it is usually some selfish vision of an eternity of indulging in trivial pleasures.  That is why Jay and Seth automatically have weed when they get to their cloud in the sky.  Whatever the real Heaven is like, what I do know is that is where you can be closest to God, and that will hopefully be enough for me.

Of course, you can get the lessons you find in This Is the End from better sources.  The amount of drug use and general inappropriateness is why I do not give it a pass despite the rather refreshing wake up calls experienced by the main characters.  Like doing an exorcism, watching this movie is not for the faint of heart.  As such, I would avoid if at all possible.

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