No surprise considering the minds behind it: This is the End is often very, very funny, especially if you enjoy satire that skewers Hollywood stereotypes and gags revolving around weed, masturbation, and other preoccupations usually associated with male arrested development.
What may surprise you is just how gory the film is — it’s far more “horror comedy” than straight comedy — and how far the film is willing to go to explore its themes and either condemn or redeem its characters.
The premise of the film is relatively simple: while attending a party at the L.A. home of actor James Franco (who, like everyone else in the cast, plays himself), childhood friends Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, along with Franco, Jonah Hill, Charlie Robinson, and Danny McBride, are among the few able to survive the initial onslaught of what appears to be the end of the world. The group of supposed friends then must find a way to survive each other, as they barricade themselves inside what’s left of Franco’s house and try to figure out how to keep whatever is lurking outside from coming in and how to make their dwindling supplies last until they can be rescued.
Based on “Seth and Jay vs. the Apocalypse,” a film short written by Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg (who also co-wrote This is the End), This is the End is a lot more fun if you’ve ever sat around and wondered what the lives of people like Rogen, Franco, Hill, or even Michael Cera are like when they’re on camera or on stage. If you imagined them to be not much different than the slackers and schlubs they often portray on screen, then most of what unfolds in the film will fall right in line with your expectations, although some of the fictionalized characterizations may take you by surprise. The film’s version of Michael Cera, for example, has more in common with Charlie Sheen during his “duh-winning” days, which makes him especially fun to watch. Danny McBride, too, gets to really have fun playing himself as the group’s unknowing black sheep, the guy that no one likes due to his boorish behavior, and that no one has the guts to tell just how much he’s disliked.
Sadly, at an hour and forty-six minutes the film feels like exactly what it is: a short film developed into a feature that should have just stayed a short film. Ironically, one of the funnier bits in the film is made up of the guys killing time in the house by filming a trailer for the sequel to Pineapple Express (which starred Rogen, Franco, and McBride), which also looks hilarious as a two-minute trailer but would probably be awful as a full-length film. For every laugh-out-loud bit in the film, there’s a gag that falls flat or a dialogue scene that, while funny, feels like it was written in to give that particular cast member more to do in the film.
By the end (pardon the phrase), what the whole thing boils down to is, of all things, a morality tale. Those in the story who figure out how to be decent, humane people who honor their friendships and confess their flaws and mistakes find redemption, and those who don’t end up fodder for large, flaming demons not wearing underpants or worse. (Yes, there’s worse in this film than large, flaming demons not wearing underpants.) But lest you walk out of the film feeling like you paid for a comedy and got a lecture on “Do-unto-others” instead, Rogen and Goldberg leave you with arguably the funniest ending scene of the year thus far. You just have to see it for yourself.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
This is the End
Starring James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, with Michael Cera and Emma Watson. Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.
Running Time: 106 minutes
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.