Vulgar, filthy, and laugh-out-loud funny, This is The End proves that writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are actually pretty solid directors, too. The duo - who became major players in Hollywood with the success of Superbad - wrote this post-apocalyptic comedy as a full length adaptation of a short film they worked on years ago, and they chose this project as their co-directorial debut. Featuring a motley crew of comedic all stars and some impressive creature effects, This is The End imagines the end of the world as seen through the eyes of some of Hollywood's biggest actors and culminates in one of the funniest moments I've seen on film in years.
This is The End
Writer/Directors: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride
All the actors here play slightly tweaked, exaggerated version of themselves. Jay Baruchel despises Los Angeles, but he comes to visit his buddy Seth Rogen in L.A. to salvage their dying friendship. Nothing major has happened between them - they're just drifting apart because Rogen has new Hollywood friends like James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson and Jay can't stand the Hollywood scene. After a day of playing video games and getting high (did you expect anything else?), Seth ends up dragging Jay to a massive party at James Franco's house, where we get appearances from practically every A-list comedy star in the Apatow crew: Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Michael Cera (playing a coked-out sex fiend), and even people like Rihanna and Emma Watson.
While Jay and Seth go out to grab snacks at a convenience store, the Rapture happens: blue lights shoot down from heaven, freezing people in place and then slowly lifting them into the clouds. Chaos ensues on the ground, and as the duo dodges car wrecks, sinkholes, and falling debris, they return to Franco's house only to find the party still going on and everyone is completely oblivious. (Greetings, social commentary - nice to see you here!) Soon, however, most of the Hollywood elite are killed in various ways and a core group of survivors - including Jay, Seth, Hill, Franco, and Robinson - board themselves in Franco's house and try to figure out what the hell is going on.
The next morning, the gang is joined by their rough and tumble friend Danny McBride (he of "Eastbound and Down" fame) who had slept through the entire apocalypse and who uses a huge portion of their rations to make them all a massive breakfast. As tensions rise among the group, McBride turns into the villain as he disregards all concepts of rules in favor of drinking and eating whatever he wants and, well, pleasuring himself whenever and wherever he damn well pleases. (This is where the movie gets really vulgar.) I've never been a big fan of McBride's schtick, but if you are, then you'll love him in this because he's basically exactly as you'd imagine him: loud-mouthed, arrogant, and revolting. But it's not just McBride that throws things for a loop - Jay and Seth have unresolved issues, and the seemingly-sugary-sweet Jonah Hill has a dark side, too.
Most of the movie is just a bunch of comedians in one location surviving the end of the world, so it feels like a bottle episode of a television show. But credit Rogen and Goldberg for taking their premise to the next level and incorporating actual creatures and massive visual effects sequences to support those smaller interior moments. We all know this story can't end in the house, and when the group eventually goes into the open, the movie quickly ratchets up the stakes. While not all of the comedy works (but really, name me a movie in which every joke does), there are some hilarious bits spread throughout the film: a sarcastic demonic possession, a robbery at Franco's house from a famous movie star, and one especially funny celebrity cameo were highlights.
The music choices are mostly perfect (with the exception of "Gagnam Style" playing during a drug trip...why give that song any more longevity?), and I'm convinced the film's climactic moment works simply because of the song that plays underneath it. The movie closes with the most ridiculous three or four minutes I've seen on film in a long time, and I was laughing so hard I was brought to tears. I will caution older viewers: this joke is incredibly specific, and if you didn't come of age in the late 90s/early 2000s it will likely land with a dud. But for those of you who "get it," it's hysterical. The scene is essentially worth the price of admission alone.
This is The End relies on Jay and Seth's friendship as the emotional center of the film, and though that doesn't always hold up as the most interesting or effective way to get through the story, it ultimately resonates. Many of the tears I cried at the end were due to laughter, but one may have slipped out in reaction to the emotional payoff of their character arcs. If you're a fan of the Judd Apatow comedies, it's a good bet this will be your favorite comedy of the year. The end of the world always has grave implications, but it's never been such a riot. Until next time...