I’ve been harsh toward This is the End from the very beginning. First batch of trailers painted the film as a “Hey look at [enter famous name here] acting wacky!” sort of comedy, but as the trailers rolled on and hinted at the bigger picture, there was something intriguing about the premise. But I always saw the film ending up one of two ways: hilarious now but doesn’t hold up down the line, or just fall flat on its face. Thankfully neither of those things happened. I’m glad to be wrong here.
While not everything works perfectly, This is the End‘s entire package definitely comes from the heart…and its package.
This is the End
Directors: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Adapted from the short film, Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, This is the End is all about Jay Baruchel (Jay Baruchel) and Seth Rogen’s (Seth Rogen) friendship. Jay is visiting L.A. and staying over at Seth’s house. Although Seth wants to go a to a big party at James Franco’s (James Franco) house, Jay is timid and has generally grown tired of Seth’s new friends and lifestyle. While partying with the likes of Craig Robinson (Craig Robinson), Jonah Hill (Jonah Hill) and Danny McBride (Danny McBride), the entire world goes to hell as the apocalypse begins. Then Jay and Seth (as well as some famous friends) have to fight to stay alive.
Now let me say this before continuing the review. This is the End is most definitely a self-depreciative comedy with an emphasis on “self.” If you have never seen a Seth Rogen comedy at this point but have some semblance as to who these comedians are, you may still find yourself confused. Much of the film’s humor (and especially one loving, yet alienating tribute to one of Rogen and Franco’s more notable films) comes from prior knowledge of Rogen’s career and the image these comedians have concocted for themselves in Hollywood. While it’s entertaining, it can create a bubble around the film which prevents most of the general audience from completely investing in it. They’ll still laugh at the jokes and well used cameos, but they’ll completely miss the deeper thematic resonance.
Much of This is the End is set up like a standard “bottle episode” of any given sitcom. You have a group of people trapped in one place for numerous reasons, and the dramatic beats of the narrative stem from how these few folks learn to adapt to their new situation while dealing with their friends/enemies/frenemies in close quarters. In that respect, This is the End is a surprisingly compact film given its premise. Much of the action takes place in one area, and for most of the film, the outside is painted in a foggy, yellow color. It works well enough to give the setting a sense of dread while not really having to do much. In fact, when you think of the framing of the film as a sort of postmodern stage play (where characters came leave and exit the stage) it’s borderline genius.
But is it funny? Yes, yes it is. As stated above, if you’re familiar with these comedians and their films, you’ll never stop laughing at This is the End. But unfortunately, it’s going to take a bit to get there. This is the End is truly strong as soon as the apocalypse kicks in. The scenes of Franco’s party are clunky, full of cameos that tend to misfire, and when folks begin to kick the bucket, it’s some of the worst shot scenes of the film. Thankfully, once the cast is boiled down, the humor and suspense kicks in at full force. Much of the exchanged dialogue comes off as wonderfully natural as each comedian is allowed to play an exaggerated version of their Hollywood persona (although I’d like to believe Craig Robinson is really that suave in real life). And because of the nicely put together script (with much of it I’ll assume is adlibbed due to the quickfire nature of the jokes), each actor in this case is at the top of their game, with Danny McBride being the standout.
With a film so focused on comedy, I couldn’t blame you for expecting every other aspect of the film to fall apart. Luckily, that doesn’t happen here. There is a plot to the film, rather than just a thin premise in which to tie endless jokes to one another, and that plot is handled well. Since it focuses on a small setting (and even smaller core theme of Jay and Seth’s friendship) it never feels like it’s trying too hard to be funny or heartwarming. It just works out. The smaller dialogue exchanges escalate naturally and bring out the best in the cast. There are a few moments during the film also that perfectly marry heart and action while somehow getting a laugh or two. I know I’m speaking in generalities, but if I give an example of any of the moments, it’ll completely wreck the foundation of the film. But that’s odd too. At least the action is filmed well beyond the initial “giant hole opens up and swallows all the famous people” scene.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I loved the final 15-20 minutes of the film. By that point, I had been won over by the characters, and gotten used to the brashness (and crudeness) of the jokes despite looking at a giant phallic image, as the most deliciously goofy sequence takes place. It’s certainly a dramatic moment, but it’s mixed with humor (and some of the greatest song choices) in such a way that tells the audience to stop being so serious. As soon as it was over, I had a huge smile on my face.
Of course not everyone will react to This is the End in the same way. It’s a niche film (for fans of raunchy Rogen comedies who understand the meta-narrative) that does sometimes drag as it gets to the next scene, and at other times the humor does feel forced from one of the individuals. And while I hope it has the tenacity to withstand multiple viewings, the film’s jokes may very well verge on “one and done” in most cases. Whatever the case turns out to be, the dialogue exchanges between these guys is well worth the price of admission (especially if you’re a fan of Pineapple Express).
This is the End is the Rogen comedy to end all Rogen comedies.