James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, and Seth Rogen. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for This Is the End.
July 15, 2013
(Republished November 11, 2013)
This is... a very strange movie. An assortment of A-Listers - playing themselves - assemble for a pitch-black, gross-out apocalypse comedy, debating the value of their lives when confronted with the confirmation of God's existence. Imagine if this vanity project had been conceived by Tom Cruise, Will Smith, and Amanda Bynes. I don't quite think we, as a society, would have had the tools to process it. This Is the End, instead, features the far more palatable Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride; actors who, in previous outings, have only worn their characters as thin-veils over their real-life personas. Directed by Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg, This Is the End never reaches the heights of earlier collaborations Superbad and Pineapple Express. However, it has a belligerent, depraved, coked-up Michael Cera, and that is a treat unique to this film and this film only, so it's certainly worth your time.
If there's a lead, it's the Canadian Baruchel, who arrives in L.A. to spend time with his childhood buddy from Toronto, Rogen. One of these stars is bigger than the other; reason enough for Jay to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder when Seth drags him to a fancy Hollywood party at Franco's house. The guests include almost every funny person worth their salt: Aziz Ansari, Jason Segel, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, err, Rihanna (well, maybe she's funny in person). Meanwhile, Michael Cera's running around harassing RiRi, blowing cocaine into Christopher Mintz-Plasse's face, and generally causing enough of a ruckus to incite a Sodom and Gomorrah style smiting all on his own.
Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Emma Watson, and Aziz Ansari.
And that's almost exactly what happens. Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of cities around the world, is suddenly set ablaze. The pure of heart are airlifted to heaven, while the rest of the sinners are left as playthings for the demonic beasts that now roam the streets. A giant sinkhole opens up in Franco's front lawn, offering us the opportunity to see many a beloved actor falling violently to their death. Baruchel, who moments earlier didn't even want to be at the party, finds himself barricaded in Franco's fortress with the homeowner, Rogen, the aggressively polite Jonah Hill, a spooked Craig Robinson, and, much to everyone's chagrin, Danny McBride. Those who were sucked into the sinkhole were luckier.
Being based on an old comic short, Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse, This Is the End drags out that comic premise from two minutes to an hour and a half. It certainly doesn't lag, but this many self-referential jokes are better contained to short-form comedy (which is why the party sequence is the picture's only truly transcendent moment). The actors all bring their comic chops and charm - though if you find them chopless and charmless, this won't change your mind - and brilliantly skewer our preconceived notions of them. Franco's oft-questioned sexuality is brought to the fore, particularly with his crush on Rogen growing throughout the flick. Hill and McBride, on the other hand, are more than happy to be painted as self-righteous, unrepentant villains.
Repentant. Righteous. I use these phrases for a reason . The most surprising thing about This Is the End is how it deals with religion. When it become apparent that what they're experiencing is indeed The Rapture, the leads must consider which of their deeds caused them to be left on a burning Earth with the rest of the awful Michael Ceras of the world. As they attempt goodness - somewhat self-servingly, to score an express ticket to the afterlife - This Is the End becomes more Christian than a Terrence Malick flick. The concept of The Rapture is fascinating, and ripe for cinematic realisation (independent of personal religious beliefs). I just never suspected Rogen and company would be among the first to explore it in a major fashion. That they actually approach his subject - if not any others - with some sensitivity is even more remarkable.
It's Rogen and Goldberg's first time at the helm, so they've not been given enough of a budget to deliver special effects that aren't at least a little laughable. Thankfully, we spend most of our time indoors with our six leads as their relationships devolve. The laughs are plentiful, if only occasionally very hearty. That they can still find the funny in such an increasingly dark story is a testament to their talents. The Old Testament, even! I'll show myself out.
This Is the End will be available on Quickflix from November 13, 2013.