Over the years I’ve talked about a phenomenon I like to call ‘treehouse humor.”
It’s when a bunch of guys get together and try to out-gross each other. They would never act like this on their own. But in a group? All bets are off.
I bring this up because “This Is the End” is the quintessential treehouse-humor movie, featuring some of the best comedic actors of the day with a whole lot of money to spend on their childish antics — a dangerous, but potentially hilarious, combination.
All egos are checked at the door as guys like James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson play jerky versions of themselves in an apocalyptic setting.
It all starts one weekend when Jay flies into Los Angeles to hang out with his old pal Seth. Seth wants them to go to a big house-warming bash at Franco’s new digs in the Hollywood Hills. Jay would rather not, since he doesn’t much care for Franco and his extended entourage.
Reluctantly, Jay agrees to go, and his worst fears are realized. He’s left wandering around the massive concrete house filled with drunken and/or stoned party animals, while Rogen yuks it up with Franco and friends.
Tired of the scene, Jay drags Seth out for a walk to a nearby convenience store, where all hell is about to break loose. Yes, the rapture is commencing, complete with good people being pulled up into a blue-light-special stream, and those less desirable falling into the proverbial pit of the fiery underworld.
Wait a minute, I thought this was suppose to be funny. Well, let’s just say it gets better — right before it gets worse. Much worse.
Jay and Seth dash back to Franco’s pad, where the guests are still partying, unaware of the impending doom. The ground shakes, the crowd flees, the earth opens up and most are consumed.
Only our six comics remain, trapped inside the house, wondering when the End will come for them. This is where it gets pretty funny — these self-serving guys must rely on their very limited survival skills.
And then it happens. What was pretty lighthearted suddenly goes down a very dark and disturbing path, filled with terrifying phallic-waving demons and awkward, uncomfortable chuckles. It stops being funny and becomes very unsettling.
It eventually tries to climb out of its self-created abyss, but it’s too little too late. Most of the audience has gone from tears-in-the-eyes laughter to confused silence.
I’d call that a big misstep in what should have been the funniest dark comedy of the year. Instead, it will be mostly remembered for how it pushed the comedic envelope way, way over the edge — even for treehouse humor.
- THE FILM: ‘This Is the End’
- STARRING: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Emma Watson
- BEHIND THE SCENES: Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg in their feature-film debut; filmed in Los Angeles and Louisiana.
- PLAYING: Cinemark Farmington, Layton Hills 9, Layton Tinseltown, Megaplex 13, Megaplex 14, Newgate Tinseltown, North Ogden 6, Syracuse 6, Walker 8. Runs 107 minutes.
- MPAA RATING: R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.