Back in 2006, a short film was made by Jason Stone called “Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse” starring Stone’s friends Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen. When that short film was deemed not very funny by its creator and stars, the film was reduced to a 90 second trailer for a horror comedy that didn’t exist and released into the internet ether:
Cut to seven years later and we have This is the End, the feature film version of a student film trailer that’s a send up to horror, disaster, and current apocalypse films…if they were all high. Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet), the film stars Rogen, Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Jonah Hill as “themselves” trying to survive in the wake of the Biblical apocalypse. Like its stoner comedy predecessor, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, This is the End finds the right balance of humor, absurdity, and dick jokes while still maintaining a core story about friendship and sacrifice.
Which is all a very flowery way of saying that this movie is fucking hilarious! I’m not even exaggerating. I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard at a movie since The Hangover, which gives you an idea of how hard it is to please me when it comes to comedies. Especially considering that most of the main cast comes from the Judd Apatow cadre of actors who seem to think that the best way to do comedy is to talk a point to death until it becomes funny rather than actually writing a joke. This is the End, thankfully, uses that style minimally, relying more on the humor of the situation and the outlandish or understated reactions of its cast instead of beating a joke to death, freeing them up for more jokes that keep the movie at a nice, steady pace. The slowest part of the movie is probably the first ten-fifteen minutes so the audience can get on board with what will be the emotional center of the film: the friendship between Jay and Seth.
The movie, at its basic level, is about the drifting friendship of Jay and Seth, the only two actors playing the least caricatured version of themselves. The movie begins with Seth picking Jay up at the airport as he arrives from Canada to spend a weekend together filled with weed, junk food, and video games. When Seth suggests going to Franco’s housewarming party, Jay confesses that he doesn’t really like the L.A. scene and most of Seth’s L.A. friends, specifically Jonah Hill. Roped into going to the party anyway, once the pair arrive at Franco’s house (which he designed himself), the movie starts to pick up as we get a barrage of celebrity cameos populating Franco’s house. Everyone in the movie is playing either an exaggerated version of themself that plays into how we the viewing audience perceives them or as a version that is so far from the truth you can’t even see it over the horizon. Michael Cera as a coked up sex addict is probably the most left of center caricature in the entire film, but it works because who doesn’t want to see a coked up Michael Cera? Once the apocalypse hits, complete with blue lights pulling people towards Heaven and sink holes dragging others into Hell, our intrepid heroes go about trying to figure out just what exactly is happening while trying to survive each other.
For a movie that essentially requires an ensemble cast to carry the full weight of a story that mostly takes place inside a house, everyone gets a chance to shine without stealing too much of the spotlight. Like I said before, Baruchel and Rogen are the least exaggerated characters, but that doesn’t make them any less engaging. Baruchel plays the outsider and much beleaguered level head of the group, though the scenes in which he gets to cut loose are particularly fun to watch. Rogen is the typical laid back, moderately spineless one who just wants everyone to get along without acknowledging that there are clear problems amongst his friends. Franco is at his best maintaining the image of a needy, pretentious artist, Hill is the sickeningly sweet “diva” who thinks Baruchel is “the worst person ever”, and Robinson is…pretty much Craig Robinson. But once McBride makes his superb entrance, he provides a brilliant foil not just to James Franco, but for the rest of the cast.
First time directors Goldberg and Rogen handle themselves aptly with a script that requires an epic scale (it’s the Apocalypse for cryin’ out loud!) but also small-scale quiet moments to build upon the core story and provide a feeling of isolation and paranoia. And with only a budget of $32 million, what they manage to get away with in terms of special effects is pretty damn impressive. Explosions, demonic hounds, Heavenly ascension, and the Devil himself, it all works together to make Hollywood an apocalyptic playground of death, destruction, and cannibals.
To make a long story short (too late!): Go see This is the End while there’s still time!
- Two cameos in particular were wonderfully unexpected
- Quite possibly the greatest end sequence to a movie ever! Especially if you’re a child of the 90’s
- The “sequel” to Pineapple Express made within the movie is, according to Rogen, essentially how they’d do the real sequel
- Emma Watson swinging an ax is awesome!