This Is The End Review
Plot SynopsisJudgement Day hits. A pack of American comedy A-listers struggle to survive the apocalypse, taking refuge in a Hollywood mansion. Friendships are strained as resources run low and each character must prove their individual worth to a higher power.
Leading CastSeth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson. The film was released in June of this year and will most likely be released for video rental and home movie streaming services soon.
The film opens with Seth Rogan (as himself) waiting at an airport for his long-time friend Jay Baruchel’s (also as himself) plane to arrive. Snapping his picture, a paparazzo quips “Seth Rogen! So, you always play to same guy in every movie. When are you going to do some real acting?”, introducing a layer of self-mockery that lasts the rest of the film.
But really, the character Seth Rogan plays (and has always played) is something of a 21st century Everyman for the Generation Xs and Ys – an un-extraordinary but likeable slacker lost in a world that scares him, who prefers to make jokes and witty commentary on his situation than change it, and who’s happy just to party and play videogames. For this reason, his character works perfectly within this film’s apocalyptic plotline – a normal guy forced to act in a thoroughly abnormal situation.
What makes his character different in this film, however, is that he’s a celebrity. A-list comedian Seth Rogen. A central theme in the film is how celebrity changes you, as Seth’s old life (in the form of Jay) meets his new, glamorous yet vacuous, life.
Michael Cera is an Outspoken Coke-Snorting WomaniserThe first 15 minutes of the film is a raucous, hilarious and nauseating look inside the celebrity bubble. James Franco’s housewarming party. A Hollywood circle-jerk with more cameos than a Robert Altman film. Does it matter if you don’t know who these guys are? I don’t think so. If you’ve seen at least one American comedy film from the last five years then you’ll probably recognise five of the party guests. If you haven’t, their vamped-up self-portrayals offer enough of a look-in.
For those in the know, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera offer absolute highlights by playing against-type renditions of themselves. For example, Cera is an outspoken coke-snorting womaniser.
Genuinely Shocking Action Scenes and Touching Male BondingWhen stuff starts going wrong, it’s edge-of-your-seat stuff. There’s a wonderful sense of tension and paranoia that builds gradually through the character of Jay. First, from terrestrial sources – a feeling of alienation from the party, constantly reaching for another cigarette, an over-heard quarrel in a liquor store over the use of its toilets – then this foreboding explodes when the supernatural kicks in. The mixture of comedy and horror is perfectly achieved. The action direction (driver-less cars smashing into buildings) is fantastic. The death-toll of characters rises quicker than a Game of Thrones episode.
Now, holed up in James Franco’s mansion, the film settles into its stride. There’s a cabin-feverish psychological aspect as the egos of the main characters butt heads and rations start to run low. Values and honour are challenged, friendships are made, strained and ended. Danny McBride masturbates. There’s an uncomfortable drug-freak-out scene which seems contrived, like the makers were ticking “cool” and “outrageous” boxes off a tick-sheet.
CGI Monsters and Ambiguous MoralsThe last third goes Biblical. Sadly, this is where the writing becomes stale and predictable. As the characters confront demons both inside and outside their concrete fortress, the banter and camaraderie which made the first half is almost gone. The writers are shooting for the bromance factor which made Superbad a classic, without the epic journey (emotional and otherwise) which the Superbad protagonists had to travel to reach their conclusions.
The Final JudgementThis film is absolutely perfect for the first hour. Sure it’s throwaway, and by no means a classic, but it’s still quality entertainment. I would happily watch these guys doing their thing and playing off each other for the full duration of the film. It is, after all, hilarious. Unfortunately, the plot gets in the way of this and as the film develops the laughter stops.
For a truly memorable night, watch This is the End with friends and a few beers (or, if you’re like the film’s characters, a joint or two). The first two thirds will have you bent over and guffawing. Perhaps by the last third you’ll be too inebriated to notice the film’s flaws.