“This is the End” may determine the fate of comedy for the next ten years

It’s been about 10 years since this generation’s current crop of comedians emerged to the forefront. I’m talking Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and company.

In my eyes, it was 40 Year Old Virgin that really introduced them as a group to the world, and subsequent films like Knocked Up and Superbad only solidified their stardom.

But 10 years kind of seems to be the shelf life these days. Prior this group, the premiere collection of comic actors included the likes of Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. Throw Adam Sandler into that group too. What have these guys done lately? Or rather, let me rephrase — what have these guys done lately that is actually funny?

When you’ve been around long enough, your luster and appeal begins to go stale. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue a successful career, but it means you aren’t “it” anymore. Just look at Vince Vaughn’s last few movies in which he’s starred in if you don’t believe me — The Watch, The Dilemma, Couples Retreat and Four Christmases. Have you heard a single person say one positive thing about any of those four films?

But nobody really missed them because the end of their run segued perfectly into this new batch of funny folks. In fact, I bet they’re all buddies out in Los Angeles. Steve Carell, by the way, was kind of the middle man in all of this. He had his first breakthrough to relevance in Anchorman (the end of the “old wave”) and then his second breakthrough in the aforementioned 40 Year Old Virgin (the introduction of the “new wave”).

So the reason I think that This is the End is a significant film for the future of comedy is for a few reasons. First, as I already said, we are entering that crucial 10-year period. If you maintain the same schtick throughout your career, then you can’t stay relevant forever. Either your target audience will age and find humor in other ways, or you’ll be replaced by some yuppie who just happens to be funnier and more current than you.

Secondly, the film not only comprises a few of these A-list comedic actors, nor does it contain the majority of them — it contains all of them. If this movie flops, they all flop. And not only are they all in it, but they’re all playing themselves. Meaning that if their characters are not funny, then they as people are not funny. It also can be interpreted as a little pretentious — it’s assuming that the general public is so interested in these guys that we’ll automatically want to watch them acting like themselves for the better part of two hours. Which we probably are.

It’s a really bold move, and that must not go unnoticed. It also represents Seth Rogen’s directorial debut (or at least co-directorial debut). So these actors are really putting it all out on the line here. And you have to respect that a little bit.

I say it’s bold because, yes, if it fails, it’s a clear indicator that America’s interest in these guys is waning, and that it’ll probably begin a downward decline in which every subsequent movie gets a little worse and worse. But conversely, if the movie is successful, then it confirms that they are indeed still getting it done, and that our country isn’t sick of them just yet.

That’s why I think that if this movie is successful, then it buys this current group about another 10 years of mainstream relevance.

Very preliminary critical and public reception of this movie seems to be leaning towards the positive. It was released today nationally, and at least for now, it has a 7.8 rating on IMDB and an 81 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also seen a Facebook status or two praising the film, for whatever that is worth. Again, it’s way too early to tell if these numbers will actually stick, but at the very least, it tells me that this movie will not be a total flop.

So if I were a betting man, I would venture to say that, when it’s all said and done, This is the End was the right move at the right time for Mr. Rogen and company, and that we have yet to see the last of these folks.

In other words, this will not be the end.

But it will be the end of today’s blog post, which probably comes as a relief to most after that joke.

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