Theatrical Review: “This Is the End”
Produced by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver
Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (screenplay and story)
Edited by: Zene Baker
Cinematography by: Brandon Trost
Music by: Henry Jackman
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jamese Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna
You don’t expect a movie where movie stars, playing (often slightly askew versions of) themselves, fight demons during the apocalypse to get widespread acclaim, and yet, here we are, and This Is the End has managed to delight audiences and critics alike. At least, the ones who can handle a heavy dose of raunch. And, for the religious out there, those who can handle a few liberties being taken with theology. This movie isn’t for the squeamish. There are scary demons in the movie who are well equipped to do their jobs, if you get what I’m saying…. (PROFANITY AND OTHER SUCH STUFF AHEAD, o ye of faint hearts!)
Dicks. Yes, there are a lot of them in this movie, and I’m not just talking about the ones on the demons. Co-directed and co-written by co-star Seth Rogen, the film pretty much plays up the aspect of Hollywood stars being kind of… well, dicks by nature, and by having them all play themselves, the movie lets us know that this is all very intentional on their part. For instance, the movie starts with Seth meeting his friend, Jay Baruchel, at the airport after having not seen each other for some time, despite frequenting the same crowds and sometimes even featuring in the same movies together. Seth promises Jay a vacation spent hanging out, just the two of them, smoking weed and playing video games and all sorts of stuff.
(Oh yeah, this is kind of a stoner movie. In case you didn’t think the moral depravity of the film could be any higher, though that’s seriously probably the least of your concerns here if you’re kind of uppity about such subject matter in movies. Then again, why did you read past the profanity warning if that was the case?)
Anyway, after a few hours, Seth basically breaks his promise and coerces Jay into going to his old buddy and Freaks and Geeks co-star James Franco’s house for a big party across town. Jay complains to Seth that he promised it would just be the two of them, but Seth ultimately prevails. Jay struggles to relate to his fellow celebrities (though not necessarily friends), including Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, and an out-of-control Michael Cera. (*SPOILER IF YOU HAVENT SEEN THE TRAILERS* Cera haters will finally get their wishes fulfilled, at least on screen. *END SPOILER*) On their brief respite at a convenience store however, Jay and Seth begin to bicker about Seth’s broken promises when, suddenly, out of nowhere, the Rapture happens, causing the good to be beamed into heaven like victims in a UFO’s pull and the bad to suffer on earth, though some of their earthly suffering is mercifully cut short through violent death.
Understandably freaked out, the duo dart back to the party, only to find that everyone seems to be fine — nobody’s gone to heaven here. It’s only when an earthquake opens up just out front and begins to swallow up several of the famous partygoers that anyone actually believes them. This Is the End then becomes a tale of the remaining famous survivors’ efforts to stay alive and find a way out in a world that is now overrun with demonic hellspawn and, apparently, zero good people.
This Is the End ultimately plays like a stoner comedy crossed with an apocalyptic horror thriller, with a dose of “Hotel California” for good measure. If you somehow find yourself watching the movie and find the humor to be, well… crass, then, yeah, that’s kind of the point. The film plays with the idea of celebrities being self-important jerks with strange habits and hobbies – James Franco’s strange genital-focused artwork, for example – and illustrates them through the typical survival scenarios, like rationing water … and the proper, sanitary means of ensuring that everyone gets their fair use of Franco’s porno magazines without the worry of… errant… dehydration….
It’s all quite hilarious, believe me, though I tend to find a lot of raunchy comedies pretty funny if they’re clever and/or performed well enough. Seth Rogen and Superbad collaborator Evan Goldberg have not only assembled a lot of famous faces to throw into the pits of hell and kill off horrifically, but have also managed to snag several of today’s more prolific comedians to play the central survivors, which include nervous wreck Craig Robinson, a delightfully deranged Jonah Hill, the perverse Danny McBride, and, as the sole female survivor, the action hero Emma Watson. If you’ve seen the previews, you know that the group spends much of its time horsing around and hoping to ride out the apocalypse, and a lot of great gags arise from this. The demons roaming the earth also provoke a few tense action sequences, as well.
And while it’s all well and good to watch celebrities take pot shots at themselves (pun?), the film is also quick to focus on the whole “don’t be dick” morality play by going back to the same well that Superbad dipped into and exploring that whole bromantic significance of friendship aspect, with James Franco being this film’s artsy answer to McLovin. And I want to stress that those of you with devout beliefs about pretty much anything religious are going to have to let your theology slide on this and just enjoy the story for what it does say about the other things. (I don’t know why you would expect sound theological truth from a film like this, anyway, so lighten up!)
If I had anything negative to say about the film, it’s that the promise of having Emma Watson on board was ultimately a bit squandered, perhaps even falsely advertised. I would’ve loved to have seen her have a greater part than what she had, and I never felt that much closure for her… That, and she’s also just REALLY cute, which is nice considering the cast involved. You ladies will have to settle for a late game cameo that I will not dare spoil for you. Some may find the film’s ending to be kind of odd, as well, but I thought it was amusing, if random. I’ll not be getting that song out of my head for a while…
The trailers for this movie were pretty promising, though I hadn’t heard of it up until just a short while ago – or at least had forgotten that it existed, if I had heard of it (and didn’t get it mixed up with The World’s End, which releases in the US later this year). It’s sort of serendipitous that This Is the End released during Guy Movie Month. I’ve not been nearly as focused as I was during Girly Movie Month, and it’s mostly because I’ve been seeing a lot of movies in theatres (I also saw the delightful Monster’s University and the rather dull World War Z this weekend and had earlier watched Man of Steel, which I guess can kind of be considered a “Guy Movie,” though not in a sense that I intended). I hadn’t even realized that this was releasing in the same month as this, and so I’m delighted to have killed two birds with one stone here (themed review and theatrical review) while also just generally enjoying a solid and certainly high concept comedy. I’d definitely buy this at the right price for when I’m in the mood for such a thing.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5