How does one end a day in which they have taken in the wonderful sights and sounds that the streets of London have to offer? In a day that saw me take in some of the culture that our nation’s capital has to offer, including the Natural History Museum and the spectacular Matilda musical, I felt that a cinema outing would be the perfect way to end the day. How about going to an art cinema? Have some high brow cinema to top off my culturally fueled day. Nah. This Is The End, perhaps the lowest of low brow, was the only way the day could end; chilling out, kicking back, and watching something that would not ask much from me, and this was the film to check all the boxes. Sure, maybe The Internship could have done that too, but This Is The End has much more going for it; whiny man-child actors playing themselves in the backdrop of the apocalypse. Self-indulgent? Sure, but that doesn’t stop it being the most stupidly entertaining and crowd-pleasing movie of the summer thus far.
Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to spend the weekend with his Canadian fellow-actor buddy Seth Rogen. The two, who have been growing apart since Rogen moved to L.A., both see this weekend as a last chance; Rogen sees it as the last chance to get Baruchel to like his L.A. friends, while Baruchel sees it as the final chance to recapture what was once a unique friendship. On the first night, after a few settling in pleasantries, Seth takes Jay to a party that James Franco is holding to celebrate the completion of his new house. Jay soon becomes lost in the faces of the many L.A. actors and actress that are attending the party. Ready to get out of there as fast as he can, Jay finds that it won’t be that simple when the end of days decides to rear its ugly head, turning Beverly Hills into fiery mountains of death and sin. With the good being taken up to heaven, and many of the party’s guest becoming victim to the fiery chaos and earthquakes that characterize this apocalypse, Jay is left on Earth in Franco’s household with the man himself, Seth, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. With the group held up in the house, friendships are put to the test as the boys struggle to formulate a plan to survive the chaos that surrounds them.
Having familiar faces play themselves in such a ridiculous scenario allows what would have been a perfectly funny anyway mutate into a witty satire on the ridiculousness of celebrity image. sure, these are not the sort of celebrities we truly feel need ridiculing (aside from Franco perhaps) yet we revel in their own enjoyment at poking fun at the duds in their careers and their perceived public personas. Seeing the likes of Micahel Cera and Jason Segal parodying their own public images gives us as much enjoyment as the actors clearly had portraying a different side to themselves. Of course the script is catering to the many talents, of course Rogen and Evan Goldberg are simply allowing their famous friends to have a bit of fun. But if we’re going along quite happily for the ride then I do not see much harm in self-indulgence.
Rogen and Goldberg’s script is very loosely joined together by some rather slap dash set pieces, that do surprisingly shock in their jumps and scares, while the gags come thick and fast. Much of what we can assume is improvisation is where the film lags in its pacing. There are plenty of places where sequences could have been shortened, jokes stretched out far beyond their punchlines, but even within these moments, the jokes hit more than they miss. Rogen and Goldbergs direction kicks the pace moving as slickly as it can, with bright and highly energetic montages, whilst also paying reference to milestones of the horror genre (most obviously being Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist). They shoot the film through a hazy hand-held lense, that has a surprising visceral edge to it, while they also manage to craft and design very effectively within their limited effects budget. With most of the more impressive CGI being saved for the final moments, the earlier build up and catastrophe is somewhat ropey in terms of effects, but I sincerely doubt anyone is going to be attending this movie in the hope of witnessing a special effects extravaganza.
The performances across the board are fun and spirited, with most of the actors either relying on their established likeability, or going out to destroy it. McBride, who is granted a stunner of an entrance, is the one who is perhaps having the most fun embracing the chance to truly act like a Grade-A asshole. He is a character who sees the apocalypse as an opportunity not for order, but for complete and utter chaos, a sentiment that is not shared amongst the rest of the Franco household inhabitants. Robinson and Baruchel hold much of the moral backbone, Robinson standing as a particular highlight, his brand of humour and comic delivery absolutely slays me every-time. Baruchel is, well Baruchel, neither hilarious nor unlikeable, and taking on a much larger role than I had anticipated, while Jonah Hill turns in a bizarre and rather creepy performance. Rogen is once again his furry lovable self, while James Franco truly revels in sending up his image and emerges as one of the most entertaining performances of a film filled with fun turns and cameos (some more obvious than others).
This Is The End sets the bar incredibly high for the Summer comedies of 2013, powered by an infectious spirit; fun, strangely warming and foul-mouthed in the best sense of the word. It would have been fun to spend much more time among the last array of cameo stars in the party, but the time we spend with the small group within the house is time well spent. Well contained for the most part, the film has a surprising warm centre amongst the chaos; it all boils down to a movie about friendship, the ones we lose and the ones we cherish, and just so happens to place these themes on the large canvas of the apocalypse. Certainly not the most sophisticated work to be developed within the realms of comedy, but it stands as one of the strongest comedies of recent times with a consist gag rate and energy to spare. A trip worth taking.