Early on in This Is The End, Jay Baruchel makes it known he doesn’t care for Hollywood. He doesn’t trust James Franco, he thinks Jonah Hill is a jerk, and he’s not particularly pleased that his buddy Seth Rogen wants to drag him to a party at Franco’s swanky new mansion in the Hollywood hills. He becomes even less pleased when he finds a coked-out Michael Cera in the bathroom, with a supermodel plunging her face into the crack of his butt. He becomes less pleased still when the apocalypse arrives, and he’s stuck with these preening self-absorbed idiots. Baruchel is the voice of reason in This Is The End, but he’s not the draw: the draw is watching actors behave badly, completely oblivious to the gravity of the situation around them. They get hung up in petty squabbles, they bicker over who gets to eat what in their dwindling food supply, and they debate whether they should kick Danny McBride out of the house into the hellfire for soiling their only porno mag. By now you’re likely familiar with this pack’s style of humor: largely sexual and scatological, with a consistent through-line of bro love. This doesn’t vary from its predecessors stylistically, but unlike many of this gang’s projects, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. By the time we reach what will likely be among the most crowd-pleasing endings 2013 has to offer, This Is The End will have entrenched itself as a strong contender for Best Comedy of the Year.
Jay (Baruchel) arrives from Canada to stay in Hollywood with his best friend and fellow Canadian Seth (Rogen) to smoke weed, play video games, and hang out like back in the day– the simpler times, before fame wrapped its muscular arms around Seth. Seth announces that at night, they’re going to a party thrown by James (Franco), much to Jay’s chagrin. Throughout the night, plenty of celebrities pop up, including Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Emma Watson, and the aforementioned coked-out Michael Cera. Jay tells Seth to step out with him to grab a pack of cigarettes, and while at the convenience store, a massive earthquake strikes, knocking Seth to the ground. Only Jay sees what transpires next: beams of blue light, grabbing several of the store’s customers and sucking them up into the sky. Seth dismisses the chaos as a heavy earthquake, but Jay suspects that the Book of Revelations’ prophecies might be coming to pass. Then, after a hole opens up in the ground outside, killing most of the celebrities at the party, Jay finds himself entrenched with Seth, James, Jonah (Hill), Craig (Craig Robinson), and Danny (McBride), who it seems wasn’t invited to the party for good reasons. Along the way we get plenty of insults, a few outsiders who try to break in, otherworldly creatures, and plenty of penises.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Rogen and Goldberg are first-time directors, as the camera work and visual style is, to put it politely, rudimentary. Additionally, the effects look cheap, as they probably are. However, since this is the type of comedy far more reliant on chemistry and one-liners than visuals and effects, it doesn’t get in the way of the laughs– though one does wonder after what a more seasoned hand could have done with this cast and this script. Everyone here has great self-deprecating fun, especially Franco, Hill, and McBride. The cameos, including a few I refuse to spoil, are all quite terrific. The pervading theme of “actors think they’re great people but they’re actually terrible” lets them take their characters to several welcome places, especially during a demonic possession and a sequence with a female visitor in which the best intentions lead to their undoing. Eventually, as with all of this gang’s films, it turns as close to heartwarming as one can muster in a film about the end of the world, where friendship reigns supreme and love between two bros conquers all. Very few comedies end on a high note (marijuana pun notwithstanding), but This Is The End, aptly, has a dynamite surreal ending, which reminded me of one of their earliest films, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. A film in which actors play themselves hanging out could have become the worst type of self-aggrandizing exercise, yet This Is The End avoids that with its cast’s keen mockery of themselves and their world. As the world is ending, men, women, and children are out attempting to brace themselves for their eventual doom. These actors relive their golden years, filming a Pineapple Express sequel inside using the video camera from 127 Hours. No wonder they weren’t saved in the Rapture.