Underwhelmed by the “Ends”
I went to see two movies I was convinced I would love, and though I didn’t hate or even dislike either, I wasn’t blown away like I expected. (Mind the spoilers.)
“This Is The End“ started strong. It had Seth Rogen, that guy with the funny voice from How to Train Your Dragon (Jay Baruchel), Michael Cera (as a drug-guzzling, womanizing asshole, which is especially funny since it’s so unlikely) and James Franco, playing his bizarre self, per usual. (Yes, I really do believe he has a Japanese love pillow, like in that “30 Rock” episode, where he also played himself.) It had solid Seth Rogen humor and it even dared to feature a bunch of movie stars playing themselves (or exaggerated versions of themselves) while giving a glimpse of what it might actually be like at a Hollywood party with our generation’s version of the Brat Pack (everyone mentioned above plus Jonah Hill and, apparently, Emma Watson, otherwise known as Hermione Granger). The first 30 minutes were gold, then it slide to passable. The scenes dealing with how you’d divide the food equally (like the one Milky Way) were pretty funny, rationing the water seemed like a realistic concern, and who doesn’t want to see a sequel to “Pineapple Express” created on a hand-held? All pretty good. It especially helps that I can watch Danny McBride do just about anything (though there is a threshold, apparently, as this movie decided to discover in one of its last scenes.)
I was with it almost all the way to end, when things started to get really, really weird. It’s not that I’m squeamish. One of my favorite shows is “Walking Dead” and they’re not shy about graphically caving-in skulls on screen, but if you’re going to present me with a comedy, don’t give me demonic rape, leashed love slaves, and cannibalism and expect me to laugh. Those things aren’t funny. In no context are those things funny. I think this movie just had no idea where it wanted to go or be, so it thought it would try being unnecessarily crass and disturbing to be different. But instead it just kinda came apart…right at the end.
The same weekend, I decided to see “The World’s End” thinking it couldn’t fail. Same cast and director as “Shawn of the Dead“, and seemingly similar plot except robots instead of zombies. Well, I’m going to say exactly what you’d expect: it’s not “Shawn of the Dead.” And I know your response: “Well, you shouldn’t see another movie expecting ’Shawn of the Dead.’” But you’d think this one would have, at least, taken a few pages from the Shawn playbook. I mean, why not stick to what works? One thing that certainly didn’t work was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, essentially switching roles. Pegg is better as the straight man and Frost is better as the waste-of-space. And it’s really hard to get behind anything about Pegg’s character in general. He’s so pathetic you can’t like him. He’s so pathetic it’s painful, and that certainly doesn’t work for the man that’s supposed to be the lead and catalyst for all the other characters. He also doesn’t seem to really learn anything by the end. But I will say this for it: it’s certainly better than “Hot Fuzz.”
So that’s my appraisal. See both movies if you have the interest, but if you really want to be blown away by a humorous post-apocalyptic romp, watch “Shawn of the Dead” again instead. Unlike these, it’s a guarantee.
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