There’s no reason why This Is the End should be as good as it is.
The film is a goof on end-of-the-world disaster movies, made by and starring the guys from such films as Pineapple Express, Superbad, Knocked Up, and nearly every other Judd Apatow–produced comedy of the past decade.
All the guys play themselves — that is, they play over-the-top, exaggerated versions of themselves — and the film is filled with enough filthy trash talk and bad behavior to fill an entire season’s worth of dumb comedies.
And yet … God bless whatever studio executive green-lighted this movie — he must have been high at the time — because This Is the End turns out to be one of the smartest inside-joke riffs and one of the funniest movies in recent years.
The setup is this: James Franco is having a house party, at which folks like Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill, and many others, are in attendance. It’s the kind of party where Mindy Kaling shows up and exclaims, “Oh, my God. If I don’t fuck Michael Cera tonight, I’m going to blow my brains out!” The kind of party where those folks would all mix with Rihanna, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, David Krumholtz, Martin Freeman, and McLovin’ himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and no one would even question it.
Then all hell breaks loose, literally: A giant sinkhole opens up, the Hollywood Hills burst into flames, and folks either fall down the hole or get beamed up to heaven. Suffice it to say, most of the party guests don’t survive. But Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Robinson, and Hill do — as does Danny McBride, who’s pissed that he wasn’t even invited to the party.
That gives him, and the others, plenty of ammunition to load up and let the insults fly.
Oh yes, the end of the world is really happening outside (look out for the skyscraper-sized satanic creature with a giant phallus!), but inside, the guys are fighting over who gets dibs on the lone remaining Milky Way, planning a sequel to Pineapple Express, drinking, smoking, and talking smack about each other — because what else would a bunch of self-centered pot-head actors do when the Apocalypse is happening a few feet away?
The jokes come fast and furious: about the movie props Franco still has stashed away (the 127 Hours camcorder comes in particularly handy), how Rogen’s a sell-out, how Baruchel is the least famous of the group (Franco can’t even remember his name), how Hill isn’t really the nice guy people think he is (does that mean the recent cover story in Rolling Stone is part of the joke?), and so on. They’re jokes that only a bunch of good friends can make at each other’s expense, and watching it makes you feel like you’re one of the luckiest sumbitches still alive to be witnessing the whole scene. You’ll be howling with laughter.
Of course, a film like this is pure indulgence, so it’s not much of a surprise that it’s a bit too long, and that there are a few lulls here and there. Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who co-wrote and co-directed) could have been better editors; a tighter film would have made it even stronger — and would have left even more material for the inevitably large collection of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray disc sure to hit stores in time for the holidays this year.
It’s also worth noting that for all its hilarity, This Is the End feels like the beginning of the end, or a kind of jump-the-shark/it’s-all-downhill-from-here/let’s-party-while-we-can/victory-lap moment, for this group of comic actors. After all, not everything they’ve touched has been comic gold, and a new guard is due to take over any day now. But … perhaps that’s a concern for another day, when the Apocalypse isn’t at hand.
For now, Rogen and co. have banded together to create a film where even at the time of Rapture, a bunch of self-absorbed actors can get even more egocentric — and have a hell of a good time doing so.
I’m giving This Is the End a B+.
Which member of this cast would you want to party with if the Apocalypse was at hand? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.