This Is the End
Rarely have I been so excited about declaring a movie to be an unmitigated disaster, but in the case of This Is the End it’s the only fitting description. The crew of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride, and the rest have made stoner comedies out of everything from crime capers to fantasy epics, and now they turn to the apocalypse. But there’s a twist: everyone in the cast is playing a lightly fictionalized version of themselves, mostly as the character you’d expect from all their other movie roles.
And for the most part this high-concept thing kinda works. Jay Baruchel shows up in Los Angeles to hang out with his old friend Seth Rogen, who drags him over to a housewarming party at James Franco’s house. Baruchel doesn’t really get along with Rogen’s new Hollywood friends, but Rogen insists, so he ends up playing awkward wallflower for a while until he’s conveniently saved by the end of the world.
Most of the recognizable faces are swallowed up pretty quickly into the yawning, fiery sinkhole that opens up on Franco’s lawn, which is probably for the best. As fun as it is to watch Michael Cera play against type — think Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold and Kumar movies — it would be hard to take over the length of a feature. As the initial cataclysm settles we’re down to a small band of survivors — Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Jonah Lehrer, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride — holed up in the house to await their rescue. After all, they rescue movie stars and celebrities from disasters first, right?
From here on out it’s mostly an excuse for the guys to do various schtick with a few apocalypse-themed prompts thrown in. The fact that the cast are all playing their own stock characters might take the edge off for Rogen and his childhood friend and writing partner Evan Goldberg, both taking their first time in the director’s chair. McBride is the crude lowbrow guy; Lehrer is sweet — almost too sweet — to everyone; Franco is pretentious and oily; Baruchel is a nebbish; Rogen is an everyman, as is Robinson. They’re all selfish and narcissistic.
Only about half the jokes are going to really land on any given viewer. The dick-and-fart humor — of which there’s a lot — leaves me cold, and I’m a little uncomfortable at the way they deal with the sudden and temporary presence of Emma Watson. But there’s also a bunch of higher-brow material, like the handheld camera Franco saved from the set of 127 Hours becoming a “video confessional”, with awkward results.
But what really makes This Is the End work is the way all the parts are pretty easily disconnected from each other. There’s not much of a story arc to speak of, so if you don’t like one bit, wait a few minutes and they’ll be on to another. Freed from the demands of long-term coherence, they can go off on all sorts of whimsical tangents, and a lot of these pay off big time. And that’s probably what makes it a great stoner comedy: you don’t have to be sober enough to follow it for more than a few minutes at a time.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.