It speaks to the popularity of star Burt Reynolds that The End was a box-office success. The film was originally conceived for the neurotic Woody Allen and although Reynolds works hard to entertain, the picture is a boring and cartoonish look at a very serious issue. Dom DeLuise is onboard to add some laughs to the pitch-black material that does included some clever lines, but mostly just hammers in its one-note joke over and over.
Burt plays a real estate promoter who has been diagnosed with a rare blood disease. He’s given a short time of survival before an assuredly painful demise. So, he decides to say goodbye to his loved ones before committing suicide. These pit-stops are populated with familiar faces in utterly conventional roles. Sally Field is Reynolds’ younger less enthusiastic lover, Kristy McNichol is his teenage daughter, and Joanne Woodward is the unconcerned ex-wife.
The film uses up half of it’s 100 minute running time with scenes of Reynolds going through these encounters that range from slapstick to sentimental, often within the same scene. The centerpiece of the picture is the best sequence in the film. Reynolds’ botched attempt at suicide on pills is well written and performed. Those actions send the character to an asylum where he encounters a psychotic patient (Dom DeLuise) intend on helping Reynolds kill himself.
The End is a film that could only have been released in the 1970s before the political correctness movement took hold, and while studios still took chances on unconventional passion projects. Reynolds clearly relishes the chance to play a normal guy, stepping away from the free-wheeling macho-man persona that shot him to the ranks of superstar. While an amiable goal, the end result is a unmemorable experience for his fans.
Director: Burt Reynolds
Stars: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Sally Field