This Is the End & The Heat: A Sign of Hope for Comedy
The comedy genre is one of my personal favorite types of film, and when done well I don’t think there’s a better experience than a comedy. There are two relatively big summer comedies that have recently been released. After having seen them both, it seems like there is hope for a genre that has been struggling to bring the funny around for quite some time. These two films show potential to bring some humor to a film world that has seemingly grown too dark and pessimistic.
This Is the End
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to laugh consistently throughout an entire comedy. In fact, the last time I remember laughing as much at a film of the gross-out comedy genre was back in 2011 with the Kristen Wiig Bridesmaids vehicle. There has been very little to laugh at recently in regards to film. With This Is the End, audiences across the country have been provided some relief from a film industry that has seemingly grown obsessed with making things dark and gloomy (of course there is some of that in this film but… well… we’ll get to that).
This Is the End takes place in current day Hollywood and starts off with Jay Baruchel (played by Jay Baruchel) visiting his good friend Seth Rogen (played by none other than Seth Rogen). In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of this film or the introduction of the main characters just confused you a bit, this film is about real Hollywood stars experiencing the apocalypse. Seth convinces Jay to go to a party at James Franco’s new house, which is pretty much a fortress with a bunch of cool stuff I it. After being at the party for awhile Seth goes to a convenience store with Jay to go buy some cigarettes.
Then, figuratively and literally, all hell breaks loose as the end of the world begins with earthquakes and and fire and brimstone. The audience is presented with a whole bunch of deaths of famous people at this point and the death is about as humorous and over the top that death can get.
After the chaotic night is done with, we’re left with 6 survivors to follow, including Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Academy Award Nominee Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride. The six caricatures of themselves show a tremendous amount of stupidity and cowardice as they try anything they can in order to survive. They bicker. They fight. They panic. They do all of this with the trademark filthiness and referential humor of which these particular performers have become accustomed.
While there are plenty of elements in the film that will be able to keep audiences laughing, that’s not to say the movie doesn’t come with its own caveats, mostly having to do with structure. In reality This Is the End is a very messy film. It is put together like a string of Saturday Night Live sketches (albeit with more mature language) intertwined with some semblance of a pretty straightforward end of the world plot.
In the end the sheer volume of jokes presented to the audience overcomes the distraction of plot. This is a film that was made strictly to make a very particular type of audience laugh (it would be difficult to imagine many audiences understanding the humor of certain characteristics given to certain celebrities) and, without much doubt, it succeeded.
The Paul Feig directed Bridesmaids was mentioned earlier as the last time I laughed consistently throughout a film of its particular genre. With the director’s follow-up film he has struck gold with this particular writer yet again. While the jokes in The Heat were smaller in volume than This Is the End, the humor brought to screen by Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock came with much better playoffs and a much higher percentage of the intended funny moments was effective.
Instead of packing as many jokes as possible into every second of t he film, The Heat works for its laughs while doing something This Is the End somewhat failed at (although it was probably doomed to fail at in the first place)… make the audience care about the protagonists. There’s a certain charm inherent with this film, the same charm that came with Bridesmaids and many of the other programs Paul Feig has been involved with (Freaks & Geeks, The Office, etc.).
The tool that is probably going to get most of the spotlight in this particular effort is the performance from Melissa McCarthy, which was funny, but was unfortunately just about the exact same character she has continued to play since her breakout role in Bridesmaids. She is still very funny and there are certain lines that come out of her mouth that are so ridiculous it’s difficult to imagine anyone keeping a straight face while saying them. However, I fear that if she doesn’t move on from being the same filthy-mouthed overconfident underdog she continues to resemble, she’ll have run her course. I’ll say the role still works quite well in this outing though.
The real gem of this film, much to my surprise, is Sandra Bullock’s performance of Agent Ashburn. To me, her straight laced performance slowly transforming was the funniest part of this movie. It’s not an unfamiliar character arc, but Bullock did a great job of, in many ways, outperforming her scene-stealing counterpart. I found myself laughing a lot more at Ashburn’s reactions to McCarthy’s Detective Mullins character than any bizarre thing that came from McCarthy’s mouth, and Bullock’s performance is what makes the chemistry between the two characters palatable.
This is a film with which there is a perfect balance of lighthearted fun and classic gross-out comedy elements. Add to that some genuinely creative action and The Heat is one of the best comedies since Paul Feig’s matrimonial predecessor.
No matter what one may think about these two comedies they certainly are an indication that the laughter won’t be stopping anytime soon. Hopefully these two movies are a sign there won’t be another 2 year lull until we get another comedy with which audiences can actually laugh.
What do you think? Leave a comment.