This is the End is a comedy film made for a certain demographic – and you should already know if you fall into that targeted group or not. If you have not been enamored with the comedic stylings of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, et al., then you are surely not going to like what they have in store for you this time around either.
This is the End is essentially these guys (plus Jay Baruchel and Craig Robinson) playing exaggerated versions of themselves (some more so than others), hanging out for an hour and 45 minutes in a singular location with only each other and a barrage of demeaning insults, potty humor, and drugs to keep them company. Basically, if you do not want to actually hang out with these guys, then you should probably stay away.
|Plus, nice guy Michael Cera plays a ridiculous douchebag, so there's that|
The plot, though it goes off on more and more ridiculous tangents as the film progresses, centers on a celebrity-packed party at Franco’s house that is unceremoniously interrupted by a truly epic event. At first, the audience is in the dark as much as the characters – is this real or imagined? Aliens? Zombies? The Apocalypse?
It is soon revealed to be the latter, as the End of Days rains down on the surrounding Hollywood Hills and abruptly brings about the party’s end. Soon everyone (including the vast majority of the celeb cameos) – save our five core players and one hilarious extended cameo – are dead or left to fend for themselves outside Franco’s conveniently fortress-like house.
|Hermione (Emma Watson) certainly proves she can kick some serious non-magical ass|
The film is chock full of pop-culture references and classic movie allusions (including many of their own past films popping up in amusing fashion). For example, spliced into the action are several Real World-like confessionals from the actors recorded with the prop camera used in Franco’s 127 Hours and a low-fi sequel to a real-life fan-favorite film that many of them starred in a few years ago.
Refreshingly, the stars are not above poking fun of themselves either – like Rogen’s trademark chuckle, Franco’s perceived pretentiousness, Jonah Hill’s surprise Oscar nomination, their individual past poor movie decisions (The Green Hornet, Your Highness, etc.), or the mostly valid criticism that they all mainly play the same man-child characters over-and-over again.
The special effects are minimalist and appropriately cartoonish, given not only the film’s playful tone but likely smaller budget. And as with any comedy, some of the jokes work, others not as much, but there is rarely a dull moment. Playing off their strengths, the film appears to rely heavily on improvisation and multiple takes. This leads the film and some its gags to run a little longer than they probably should. Perhaps a more adept director (the film marks Rogen and his writing/producing partner Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut) could have managed the film a little better and tightened up some of those loose threads. Because of this, the middle sags a bit as guys predictably grow weary of one another, but the finale turns back on the charm and geeky humor.
In addition to the laughs, most of their previous films also bring in fair amount of heart. And it is something that This is the End toys with as well, particularly in the beginning and end – friendship, selflessness, etc. But for the most part, emotion is an afterthought and the focus is on the over-the-top scenario and its resultant laughs.
Of course, being about the apocalypse, the film touches on religion, particularly the Book of Revelation. It pokes a little fun at it, but attempts, even in a vastly simplified and warped form, to extol similar notions of piety and altruism – though do not go into the film expecting any kind of theology or life lesson.
Comedies are often tough to judge the first go-round and typically get better on repeated viewings (you catch more of the jokes, notice different things, etc.). It is rare to be so in-tuned to a comedy the first time around, but This is the End manages to do just that. Sure it is a bit crass, but some of the best humor often is.
The film is based on a cult short film/faux trailer called “Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse” made by Baruchel, Rogen, and his producing/writing/directing partner Evan Goldberg in 2007. The short was almost immediately optioned for a feature film, but was continuously shelved as the actors worked on other projects. Eventually everyone got together and the film shot in New Orleans last year. I know, another movie filmed in New Orleans - yes, my city is that cool.
This review originally appeared on Chris's official review page (the one he actually gets paid for) on Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/indie-movie-in-new-orleans/chris-henson