Tag Archives: Danny McBride

This is the End (2013)

ImageHollywood’s track record for stretching a simple gimmick into a 90-minute comedy has not been great. But now, the cast and crew of This is the End laughs in the face of Weekend at Bernie’s, Year One, and Me, Myself, and Irene, and somehow manages it so that this movie flies past the hundred-minute mark feeling almost as breezy and morbidly funny as it began.

The “trick” here, of course, is that all the actors play themselves. Had they taken on different names and resumes, This is the End might be a mildly amusing rehash of the disaster movie genre, but since Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel were cool with poking fun at their previous acting projects and portraying themselves as pricks, the movie takes on a subversive, metafictional layer that has surprising bite. And, oh yeah, there are some pretty funny masturbation jokes, too.

Granted, this isn’t a groundbreaking or even a consistently great comedy, but the jokes land more often than not, and there is something undeniably fun about watching the Apatow crew bitch and moan their way through the apocalypse. They also call in their equally famous friends to get some brilliant, unexpected cameos that are used sparingly but effectively.

In these respects, This is the End provides just about everything fans would want. (They even manage a couple of subtle but reverent Freaks and Geeks references.) And maybe it’s unfair to expect this kind of film to do anything more than that. However, I could help but feel like the whole thing was a bit cheaply constructed. Co-writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg took on directorial duties for the first time, and this may be where ran into trouble. Nobody is asking for Terrence Malick-inspired visuals, but the film has a low-rent look that just pales in comparison to the more cohesive, cinematic polish of movies like 21 Jump Street or Knocked Up. These movies starring the Apatow crew rarely have the cheap or frantic tone that a movie like Year One or Scary Movie does, so This is the End’s lack of finesse unfortunately stands out all the more. It kind of felt like they blew the budget on a couple of CGI-heavy set pieces and figured no one would notice if they cut back on production values a bit and also set 85% of the movie in the same location.

Luckily, the movie is funny and smart enough to excuse most of this. Sure, the rape humour, gore, and dick jokes feel a bit easy, and it would have been nice to get even more of the character-based humour that preys on the actors’ individual tics and insecurities. But the cast here sells what they have to work with. Everyone is great in their own way, but Danny McBride might just steal the show with a balls-to-the-wall crazy version of himself. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Jay Baruchel doesn’t even have many of the big punchlines, but embraces his persnickety, “voice of reason” persona and is actually really good as the closest thing to a “relatable” character that the film offers. He’s also one of the few players who proves to have the chops to pull off the moments of overt vulnerability and (comedic) terror convincingly, which makes him a welcome anchor for the viewer to share the experience with.

Does This is the End completely earn its requisite “heartfelt” moments, given that it spends most of its runtime consciously trying to one-up itself in terms of shock humour and morbidity? Perhaps not. But the character moments are welcome breathers from the chaos nonetheless, and some of the funniest moments are the offhanded anecdotes that no doubt reflect Rogen and Baruchel’s real-life friendship. It’s nice to see the genuine camaraderie among the cast play out, and This is the End is an all-too-rare project that seems to remain true to its vision and gleefully unique in its spirit.



All the Real Girls (2003)

No one can spin a muted, heartbreaking indie yarn quite like David Gordon Green. His 2008 masterpiece (too strong of an adjective?), Snow Angels, tackles death, alcoholism, and domestic abuse all in one neat, disturbing little 107 minute package. Going back, the second entry to his catalogue, 2003’s All the Real Girls, may not be so mentally gruelling, but this tale of small-town love certainly still packs an emotional punch.

Paul Schneider (who co-wrote the screenplay with Green) and Zooey Deschanel star as Paul and Noel, two people trapped by the limits of their small southern community. Noel is the younger sister of Paul’s best friend, Tip (Shea Wigham), and when she returns from boarding school and starts a tentative relationship with womanizing Paul, Tip is none too pleased. But it turns out that Tip is just the first of many roadblocks for Paul and Noel, and All the Real Girls follows the ups and downs of their relationship in a very realistic, understated way.

Part of what makes the film feel so realistic is the halting, stream-of-consciousness dialogue. And none of the actors seemed to embrace these unintentionally hilarious conversations as much as Danny McBride, who plays one of Paul’s friends, the wonderfully named Bust-Ass. McBride has recently risen to prominence thanks to his role in a Green’s 2008 stoner comedy, Pineapple Express, but his comedic chops even shine through the dreary setting and longing gazes here. Whether he’s asking his love interest if she just farted or dismissing restaurants that serve waffles as too “fancy”, everything about McBride’s performance is surprisingly affectionate and charming.

Schneider also stands out, giving a soulful take on a character that could easily have come across as slimy. He’s a small-town version of a playboy, but Schneider’s vulnerability and the sparkle in his eye makes Paul a character that the audience roots for.

Deschanel bats her big doe eyes and says psedo-intellectual things like, “Sometimes I like to pretend that I only have ten seconds to live”, and is all-around complicated. I probably would’ve been more taken with the character if I hadn’t already seen Deschanel play the exact same role in (500) Days of Summer, The Go-Getter, and The Good Life (all of which came out after All the Real Girls, to be fair), but Deschanel is at the best that I’ve seen her in the high-drama moments here.

All the Real Girls is a film that takes its time in developing characters and atmosphere, and doesn’t concern itself much with plot or the tying up loose ends. However, its slow pace begins to drag slightly in the second half, oddly, as the drama is cranked up to an all-time high. Green’s strength is in the bonds between his characters more than in the events that happen to them over the course of the film. We get a few too many scenes of characters wallowing in their own pity, and the film begins to meander slightly in its own messiness. And perhaps the biggest flaw of the second half of the film is that nearly all of the fascinating, diverse supporting characters get pushed to the background, used only as outlets for Paul’s emotions.

Despite the arguable shortcomings of the film’s second half, Green has crafted an effective take on the small joys and pitfalls of love. Only 27 years old when the film was made, Green tackles the quiet subject matter with considerable finesse. His filmmaking style is unobtrusive, but evokes a wonderful atmosphere. Paul and his friends live in a lonely, dank town, and the downbeat backdrop suits the rest of the film incredibly well.

The film that All the Real Girls is most often compared to is Zach Braff’s 2004 directorial debut, Garden State. Though Garden State may be the more wholly successful film, All the Real Girls feels less self-conscious and flaunts its average-dude roots, rather than amping up the drama with a hip soundtrack. It’s a must-see for fans of Green or Deschanel, and those who are willing to take a meandering journey through every aspect of love will likely enjoy this modest little film.