Well if you ever wanted to see a meta horror-comedy set during a biblical apocalypse, have I got a treat for you. “This is the End” is from writer/director duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) and features a bevy of young actors and comedians playing themselves, and yes it is as weird as it sounds, but does it work?
The movie starts with Seth Rogen picking up Jay Baruchel (Cosmopolis) from the airport so they can spend a weekend hanging out together in Los Angeles, what with them being old Canadian friends and all, but while Jay wants to hang back at Seth’s place and just shoot the shit with his buddy, Seth wants to go to a house warming party thrown by James Franco (Oz The Great and Powerful, Pineapple Express). Jay gives in and they head over to a wild party at Franco’s, which really gets crazy when some insane shit starts going down, resulting in massive amounts of deaths, fires, brimstone and other just wild shit.
None of said wild insane and wild shit will be disclosed here because you might as well just see this thing for yourself. Suffice to say, the cast gets whittled down to Seth, Jay and Franco along with Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street), Danny McBride (Pineapple Express) and Craig Robinson (Pineapple Express), and really the story is all about how Seth and Jay have grown apart and need to man up and confront this issue between them lest their friendship die. And what better time to question one’s friendship with a dude than during the apocalypse?
Now, about this whole actors playing themselves thing – really they are playing versions of themselves, and in some cases they are still putting on full on performances. Really only Seth and Jay seem like “normal” people, as everyone else goes more cartoonish and big, with some of the much smaller players in this story getting really big and memorable moments before being whisked away (or kicked into a chasm). And all of the guys seem like single, unattached versions of themselves, as they never seem to worry about any possible girlfriends or wives or family members or anything like that. But it still adds an interesting layer to the comedy, as they are able to pull from some real life stuff to make their jokes, which will obviously resonate a little more with audiences. So when people hear them rag on movies like “The Green Hornet” and “Your Highness,” they can feel like they are in on the joke, too. It’s an inside-joke party and we’re all invited!
And it’s not all comedy, no way no how. There is actually a very nice mix of horror and drama in here, and it’s all pulled off quite well considering Rogen and Goldberg are first time directors here. A consistent and appropriate tone may be the hardest thing to pull off in a feature film, and when you try to switch that tone up between jokey-jokes and horrific events/action and a little bit of character-based drama, you are skating on thin ice there. But these guys pulled it off and “This is the End” has a few genuinely tense scenes, as well as some solid character development.
Really it is this solid characters work that makes the movie really work, because we could be watching a movie about any group of assholes trying to survive some horrible event, but it takes some effort to make us actually care about these assholes and want to see them succeed. And Seth and Jay’s story about their friendship being tested by Seth’s changing when he moved to Los Angeles and Jay’s resistance to changing is thought out and done in a way that it just adds to everything, instead of being a distraction.
Thanks to this emotional core, the audience now has something to actually cling on to, so when the climax of the movie arrives, we actually give a shit about what happens. It also has a nice conservative, family values type of message that, in the end, no religious person or Republican or any person who considers “family values” a high priority could ever argue against. And for a movie with this many dick jokes and cameos, these things are damned miracles.
“This is the End” fun and funny and has a nice little message that you can’t argue against. Works for me.