This is the End (2013) / Comedy
MPAA rated: R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
Running time: 107 min.
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Kevin Hart
Cameo: Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, Aziz Ansari, Backstreet Boys, Evan Goldberg, Jason Segel, Martin Starr
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Review published June 15, 2013
In-jokes abound in this ambitious and highly creative lowbrow comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (The Green Hornet, Superbad), who share both writing and directorial credits in what will likely rank highly among their weed-and-raunch loving fans. The uniquely 'meta' film, an extended and higher-budgeted remake of an unreleased short film Rogen and co-star Jay Baruchel (Goon, Fanboys) had made about six years prior ("Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse"), casts the large ensemble of real-life comedic actors, all playing satirical versions of themselves, while reacting in hilarious ways to the over-the-top craziness that surrounds them. Smartly shot for a very modest budget of $30 million (lots of strings were certainly pulled to get such a cast of famous personalities onboard), Rogen and Goldberg know where and when it's most effective to go for special effects (this does not feel like a low budget Hollywood film), and they do so without letting visuals or star egos get in the way of making a very funny movie.
The premise of this high-concept flick (it's like Skyline, but with demons instead of aliens, and a Shaun of the Dead sense of comedic self-awareness) involves Jay Baruchel traveling to Los Angeles to stay for a spell at BFF Seth Rogen's house, where they proceed to get high, play video games, and just enjoy each other's company. Eventually, Seth cajoles Jay into heading over to a house party at James Franco's (Oz the Great and Powerful, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) house, where a bunch of hipsters and celebrities are getting crunk, at least until all Hell breaks loose when the region experiences a rash of earthquakes, fires, and straight-up mayhem galore. It becomes apparent that there's more than just a natural disaster in their midst, and soon the remaining men holing up in Franco's house -- Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson (Rapture-Palooza, Hot Tub Time Machine), Jonah Hill (Django Unchained, The Invention of Lying), and late party-crasher Danny McBride (Your Highness, Observe and Report) -- begin to talk about such things as the Rapture, Apocalypse, Judgment Day, and the End of the World. With food and water on the decline, the men are going to have a Devil of a time surviving.
Despite its label as a raunchy comedy, This is the End is surprisingly clever and keenly aware of what it is. An opening scene sees a gossip/entertainment reporter filming Rogen, commenting that he plays the same person in every movie and asking when he's going to branch out. And that's in a movie in which he completely embraces playing himself. In another inspired scene, the men, experiencing prolonged boredom and cabin fever, decide to use Franco's video equipment to shoot a homemade sequel to one of their movies; in this case it's, "Pineapple Express 2" (which I actually find to be funnier than the first). Some of the recurring jokes, I didn't personally care for, such as Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Year One) playing against public image as a coke-snorting whoremonger in a performance that seems to be channeling Neal Patrick Harris from the Harold and Kumar movies, or Danny McBride and inability to control his impulses, but there were certainly some audience members in the theater viewing I attended that found these things especially hilarious; comedy truly is in the funny bone of the beholder. At any rate, the sales of Milky Way candy bars and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, foods that the men squabble over when they begin running out of sustenance, will certainly skyrocket after this.
Although not every gag is a funny one, the sheer amount of chances taken that surprisingly pay off in hearty belly laughs more than makes up for the dead-end bits that play a bit too long past the punch line. It's a rude and crude comedy through and through, so be warned that not only are you going to hear nearly every cuss word before the end of the film, but see every (and I do mean every) bodily fluid as well. I'm hesitant to describe much of the plot, because this mostly plotless comedy lives or dies by the element of utter surprise. The entire film appears to be built on the motif of bringing out the silliest parts of ourselves; the guiltier we feel about the immature things that bring us pleasure, the more we should embrace them to find our happy spot.
I suppose if you dislike the comedies of Rogen and Goldberg, with their Apatow-esque bromance formula, 'drugs are fun' attitude, and gross-out moments, you likely will want to avoid This is the End like one of the plagues; if you don't find their brand of humor funny, it will probably just anger you. Some of the dialogue references things they've done in the past, so the more familiar you are with their works, the more 'in the know' you're likely to be to these in-jokes. However, for lovers of bad-taste, pothead comedies, especially potheads themselves, this is the kind of movie that invites you to party along with the cast, quite possibly becoming funnier the more you imbibe prior to viewing. Although I'm not in this key target demographic, and it took a while for me to properly get into this scatter-shot comedy, the kitchen sink-tossing outrageousness and gleeful audacity practically forced me to submit to its wacked-out brand of no-holds-barred humor, and managed to win me over before the joyfully cataclysmic climax.
©2013 Vince Leo