This Is The End is a movie made by a bunch of friends about a bunch of friends surviving the biblical Apocalypse. On paper it shouldn’t work at all — actors playing themselves in movies usually fall into disrepair and end up bloating themselves into caricature. They think it’s the only way for the public to recognise them. And isn’t the idea of the Apocalypse a little, oh I don’t know, tired?
Seth Rogen and his pal Evan Goldberg don’t quite care. I suppose there is something to be thankful for in that. These are two men who have written many comedies about drugs and parties and alcohol and sex — their good friends Jonah Hill, Bill Hader, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Michael Cera irrevocably find themselves in acting parts — and sometimes their ideas seem to be lagging behind in the race. But now they are both directing, and while it is clear they make better writers than directors, their material is justified by their boundless imagination.
It must be fun to be part of this group, and to hold so much power over Hollywood that Rihanna, stepping outside her day job as a singer, would allow the mousy Michael Cera to slap her across the behind. In the opening few scenes of this movie, the ones that take place at James Franco’s ridiculously extravagant Los Angeles home, we are offered a banquet of familiar Hollywood faces. At the party are all of the men you can see on the movie’s posters, plus oddballs like Jason Segel, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari and of course, Emma Watson, who seems, more than anything, like she fell out of a plane en route from London to L.A. and crash landed in Franco’s backyard. She’s the only Brit, some of the guys wryly point out. Yes, but why is she the only Brit?
The story follows Jay Baruchel, a loner who has come to L.A. to visit his good buddy, Rogen. L.A. isn’t the town for Baruchel. He doesn’t like the scenery, both natural and social, and he doesn’t quite like the politics of Hollywood. He’s like a hero for L.A.’s underemployed. We learn that Rogen is close friends with Franco, Hill and Robinson, and that Baruchel isn’t. It just so happens that Franco is throwing this massive party, and Rogen thinks it will be a good catalyst for Baruchel to make amends and rejoin the group. So okay, the movie progresses to the Franco mansion, where all the actors play enhanced versions of themselves. To a point. The most startling deviation is Jonah Hill’s turn as a gay man who might not know he’s gay.
And then something happens. The world is suddenly torn apart by fire and ash. Buildings crumble and people everywhere are taken up into the sky via bright blue beams of light. It’s like an alien abduction bonanza. Franco, Baruchel, Rogen, Hill, Robinson and Danny McBride — McBride crashes Franco’s party and eats all their food — hole themselves up in Franco’s house, which is impervious to the flailing molten rock outside and the impenetrable wall of fire. They have no idea what’s happening, which is fair, so they decide to wait out the storm and contemplate life.
This Is The End is a movie where nothing and everything happens at the same time. Its plot is streamlined and flat; nothing really progresses — its biggest obstacles come when our heroes need food and water supplies and have to draw lots to see who will brave the outside world to get them. The first act establishes itself with nowhere to go. We have no idea where are characters will end up, or why they will end up there. Rogen and Goldberg shoot wildly in the dark with their script, but somehow it all works. Our main dudes work flawlessly with each other; they seem to know what the other will say before he even thinks it. It’s a rare gift to have among filmmaking friends. They are vulgar and uncouth, yes, but they are funny. Very funny. And I think it’s less because of their material than it is because they are so at ease with each other.
This movie came out around the same time as Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, another movie about the end of the world and fire and what have you. Edgar Wright also directed Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, so The World’s End has a specific style — something This Is The End desperately lacks. But more than that, Wright’s earlier films allow him to improve and progress. Rogen and Goldberg have little directing experience, and it shows. The cuts are jarring. The lighting is pedestrian. The visual effects seem borrowed from early 2000’s video games. This could be excused if This Is The End was a low-budget independent film. But it is a spawn of Hollywood, made almost sarcastically about Hollywood. Such crimes cannot go unpunished.
Best Moment | Michael Cera’s scene-stealing appearances. Or Franco’s and McBride’s argument over masturbation and ejaculation. Fantastic.
Worst Moment | Any shot involving Rihanna, especially the one where she sings.