Film Review – This Is The End
I have a lot of respect for actors that are willing to make fun of themselves. Acting is a job that cultivates insecurities (too young or too old, too thin or too fat, etc.), so it is often a challenge to get actors to willingly showcase their flaws. This is part of the reason why, as actors get more famous, they seem to get more insulated and detached from the general population. In the last decade or so, though, a bit of a sub-genre has been developing as more and more actors see the value in playing parodies of themselves (think Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle or John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich). Following in this tradition comes what might be the most elaborate send-up of all with This Is The End, in which almost every character is an actor poking fun at themselves.
The film is inspired by the short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, and is centered around a party at James Franco’s house. It brings most of the Judd Apatow stable of actors (Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson) into a doomsday scenario, as the Rapture occurs and builds an action comedy around them. As you would expect with these actors, the film is quite funny, spending a good amount of time with them making fun of each other’s quirks and insecurities, with some great comedic homages to iconic sci-fi and horror movies. And while you may not think about it, many of these actors do have previous action experience, which definitely benefits them here. The film is incredibly well balanced: take away the comedy and it would still be a pretty solid action movie; likewise, take away the action and you’d still have a very funny comedy.
The humor is low-brow, but very effective. None of the actors are stretching their talent, and this is not a huge divergence from some of their previous work together (such as Knocked Up and Pineapple Express), so if you have a problem with their style from before, this is not going to win you over. One of the successful aspects of the humor is the fantastic use of cameos, most notably Michael Cera doing his best to take over the crown of the head letch from Neil Patrick Harris, and Emma Watson playing a hardened version of herself. These moments are hilarious, but definitely feel like quick and easy opportunities for comedy that don’t keep the momentum of the story going. They are effective, but the film features too many of them (particularly at the beginning), so that it feels like filler material after a while. Don’t get me wrong, I was very amused, but you could cut down the movie by 10-15 minutes of cameos and it probably wouldn’t damage it.
As funny as the film is, the best parts are the instances of friendship between the actors. Certainly their fictionalized characters give each other a hard time throughout, but there are also many tender little moments sprinkled in, where they cut through the façade and let the actors display a true bond that shows why all of them are friends in real life as well. It genuinely feels like hanging out with the characters on screen would be like hanging out with them in real life; the line becomes very blurred, regardless of the craziness of the setting. Though the comedy of the film probably has a limited lifespan, as a good portion of it is shock-based, the heart of it with these sweet moments is what will keep interest going for repeat viewings.
In addition to writing the film, this marks the feature debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as directors. After working together successfully as screenwriting partners for many years (Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Watch), their transition to directing feels completely natural. This Is The End showcases all that Rogen and Goldberg have learned over more than a decade of experience in Hollywood while working with some of the best directors in the business. Another strong part of the film is the production design. For a film that wasn’t done as a $100 million dollar blockbuster (supposedly being made for around a third of that price tag), you can’t tell. The special effects are used judiciously, though frequently, with a good portion of money saved by using a “cabin in the woods” type horror-comedy premise. There are a lot of different tropes featured—disaster film, demonic possession, apocalyptic wasteland—but the story never feels like it’s forcing them. As light as it is, the plot moves smoothly, engaging the viewer and making us willing to follow along with the crazy antics. It seems like the students might finally be on the verge of dethroning the master, as Rogen and Goldberg are more consistently putting out high quality work than their mentor Apatow has in recent years.
This Is The End’s success will be dictated by people understanding that it is geared towards those with a juvenile sense of humor. If you enjoy that, like I do, then this is one of the most fun comedies to come out in a while. The filmmakers aren’t shooting for awards, just to reward their fan base for the ongoing support. If you’ve enjoyed this crew’s past work, there is no question that you’re going to enjoy this. It certainly belongs among the best films from the Apatow clique.
Final Grade: A-