Directed by: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Premise: Comic actors Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride play versions of themselves. While the actors attend a party in Los Angeles the apocalypse begins and the men hole up in James Franco’s house.
What Works: This is the End is a riff on the one-crazy-night comedy genre as seen in movies like Adventures in Babysitting and Sixteen Candles. The filmmakers combine that format with the apocalypse film which has become so popular in science fiction and action pictures and the result is a fun and irreverent comic romp. The story, such as it is, revolves around the relationship between Seth Rogan and Jay Baruchel as their friendship drifts apart and comes back together and that is just enough to give the film a narrative shape. But This is the End has to be understood less like a traditional narrative and more like ensemble comedies like MASH. In movies like this the plot is secondary, almost incidental, and that is certainly the case in This is the End. The movie exists to let the comic actors cut loose and play to their shticks and each one of them does that to the best of his abilities. Seth Rogan plays the likeable stoner, Jay Baruchel is the conscientious good guy, Craig Robinson is the human teddy bear, James Franco is the pretentious artist, Jonah Hill is sarcastic and awkward, and Danny McBride is the sociopathic doofus. No one is stretching himself here but each of the actors is able to contribute to the movie. It helps significantly that these actors are all very likable. There are many things to hold against This is the End; it is similar the Adam Sandler comedy Grown-Ups, since both films have a flimsy narrative around which recognizable actors go through familiar motions. But the cast of This is the End aren’t phoning it in. Virtually every scene has at least one successful line or gag and because it manages to make the viewer laugh on a consistent basis the movie ultimately works.
What Doesn’t: The best part of This is the End is the beginning as the actors play fictional versions of themselves and initially cope with disaster. After that the premise runs thin and some of the crass humor gets repetitive. How viewers ultimately feel about This is the End will depend less on anything in the movie and more upon how they feel about these actors. Most of these performers come from the Judd Apatow company (although Apatow himself had nothing to do with this film) and so viewers who haven’t enjoyed the actors’ other movies or don’t like locker room humor aren’t going to like this picture. As the very premise of the movie suggests, This is the End is extremely self-indulgent. After the initial apocalypse sequence the film settles into a series of mostly disconnected set pieces in which the stars play on their public personas and their filmmaking history. This is the End comes across as the big budget equivalent of the kind of homemade project that high school students would produce over summer vacation with their parent’s video camera. It has that same sense of humor and invention and just like home movies the final result is probably most amusing to the people who made it.
Bottom Line: This is the End isn’t much more than a group of comic actors getting together and screwing around but the movie is good fun. For those who appreciate the talents of this cast This is the End is a very entertaining diversion.
Episode: #443 (June 16, 2013)