Director: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride
Every now and then a group of friends will be sitting around, having a few drinks, making each other laugh really hard and they’ll collectively think “We’re pretty funny. Somebody should make a movie about us.” What would happen if that group of guys were all well-known comic actors and had the clout to get someone else to pay for that movie to be made? The answer, as we see with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End, is you get the most self-indulgent movie ever made.
Under the guidance of Judd Apatow, that peer group of Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Danny McBride and the rest – the core of which started with the short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks and then expanded through films like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad – currently sits at the top of the comedy movie hierarchy. A big part of their appeal has always been that it is so apparent that they are friends in real life, that friendship resulting in an easy, natural chemistry on screen. Unfortunately, This is the End takes that one step too far and it feels like you are watching a series of in-jokes. Plenty of those jokes are still funny, but it feels like they’d be funnier if you knew the actor personally. This feels like a movie they made for themselves.
The setup is pretty simple. Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride – all playing fictional versions of themselves – are at a party at James Franco’s place when the apocalypse occurs. All of the good people are raptured up into heaven but our guys obviously didn’t make the cut. They are left in James Franco’s house/fortress to work out how they will survive in this hell on earth. The resolution is underwhelming and feels slapped together because ultimately the storyline isn’t important. This movie isn’t about the rapture. It isn’t about survival in a post-apocalyptic world. It is about Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and James Franco finding themselves in an extreme situation and being funny. So towards the end of the film when it moves away from that scenario out of an obligation to wrap up the story, it isn’t nearly as engaging.
What saves this movie is the fact that these guys actually are funny guys, and at the end of the day all a comedy really needs to do to pass mark is make you laugh. It is a bit hit and miss, as you would expect from a film which clearly relies as much on improvisation as this one did, but at times it is quite sharp. If you weren’t a fan of Pineapple Express and Superbad you are better off steering clear of this one. It is that same style of frat-boy humour taken up a notch. Plenty of penis jokes. Plenty of drug jokes.
This is the End has cameos, cameos, cameos. Clearly some favours were called in as in addition to our central six characters we get as-self appearances from Michael Cera, Rhianna, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Channing Tatum and the Backstreet Boys. The best of the cameos though has to be from Emma Watson, who clearly enjoyed the opportunity to leave the world of Harry Potter behind her and jump into some more unashamedly adult material.
If you like the Apatow style of whimsy then This is the End has plenty of laughs for you. But it will leave you feeling a bit like you’ve crashed someone else’s party.
Rating – ★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean