This is the End is exactly the type of far-fetched movie idea that is just so silly, yet not-so-secretly culturally relevant, that despite any misgivings you may have about the film while watching it, that when it ends and you look back it you say to yourself, “Well how about that. It actually worked.” Directed and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who had previously scripted Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet), the two show their expertise with stoner comedies and nerd culture combine rather nicely together, and the film addresses both the celebrity culture they’ve encased themselves in, and also functions as a satire on America’s fixation with the end-times. Also, it’s an example about how sometimes you just need the right friends in order to make a good movie.
Playing as fictionalized versions of themselves (a tactic that the writers said was inspired by The Larry Sanders Show), the film begins with Seth Rogen reuniting with fellow-Canadian actor Jar Baruchel who has come to Rogen’s homebase of L.A. after a long absense. Right from the beginning we find that the two are having a struggling friendship with each other, and Jay is adamant about how he hates Los Angelas, which is why he doesn’t live there with the rest of the actors. After some persuasion, Seth asks Jay to join him at a party at James Franco’s mansion, and he finally accepts. Thing is, while at his mansion all of a sudden a massive earthquake hits L.A., killing off many of the party’s attendees. Seth and Jay are now holed up in Franco’s mansion as a seeming-Armageddon occurs outside, and they’re accompanied by Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and even Danny McBride in full-form as the film’s biggest douchebag.
The film’s greatest strength is in how it plays with the way we as an audience see these actors as being in real-life, which is most evident in the scenes at James Franco’s party before the apocalypse hits. Seth is depicted as the affable stoner that we’ve seen him play countless times before, and James Franco plays a more pretentious version of himself, that values fine art over anything else. A real high-light comes from Danny McBride too, who uses the same chops he used to make his Eastbound and Down’s Kenny Powers such a lovable asshole, and makes for the perfect antagonist for this story. There are plenty of other great cameos too from the likes of Aziz Ansari, Emma Watson, and a particular great turn from Michael Cera. In his case, the script writes him as a complete 180 from his perceived image, and depicts him as a cocaine addict and shameless womanizer. It’s a good thing his role is only a cameo, as it’s a little unnerving to see Cera as anything other than a neer-do-well.
The film also really caters to the slacker aesthetic that Judd Apatow has popularized in recent cinema. Although set in the present, the film has a real 90s vibe to it, with the soundtrack including songs from Cypress Hill, DMX and Dr. Dre. It’s really beneficial that the film feels so down-to-earth, as at a modest $32 million budget, This is the End doesn’t have the best special effects. When the demons appear later on the film, you can see that they’re rather poorly rendered, but these images are thankfully kept to a minimum. The movie actually functions best when it carries a more indie-film mentality, as we see these characters try to survive in the mansion while the ongoing apocalypse occurs mostly off-screen. There are still some effective horror film homages in it, including a particularly twisted reference to Rosemary’s Baby that will probably make me even more fearful on the prospect of Satan coming to rape me in the middle of the night.
It’s not a perfect film by any means. The script stalls at parts, some scenes aren’t as funny as the actors think they are, and there’s also a musical appearance from a no longer relevant 90s boy band (AKA The Backstreet Boys) that closes out the film that just sort of feels like a last resort choice. Even so, This is the End is a consistently enjoyable comedy, that manages to have a sweet and well-meaning ending after two hours of debauchery and dick jokes. Lets hope that this film won’t be the end of Rogen and Goldberg’s creative streak, and that we’ll continue to see them put out more high-concept comedies like this in the future.