Even as a concept, This is the End sounds like a lot of fun: just about every young Hollywood comedy star appears in one a single film, playing themselves. And as soon as the party finds its groove, everything starts falling apart.
The film opens with Seth Rogen picking up his friend Jay Baruchal from the airport. They’re both film actors, although one of them is a lot more famous than the other, living in an extended episode of Entourage while the other one commutes from Canada (far away from the showbiz bull***t, he says). Jay wants to stay in all weekend playing Xbox and smoking weed but Seth ends up dragging him along to a star-studded party at James Franco’s house.
And then the apocalypse happens.
People on the street are raptured up into the sky by a blue light, helicopters fall from the sky, holes open up in the ground and celebrities star dying left, right and centre. A core group of guys end up barricade themselves inside the Hollywood mansion: Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Hot Tub Time Machine’s Craig Robinson. Armed with the plan of surviving until help arrives, their characters slowly come undone as their rations dwindle. Danny McBride also turns up, expanding on his self-obsessed Eastbound and Down persona and starts throwing spanners into the works.
You get the impression that Rogen and Co. are pre-empting the standard complaint that they’re always just playing themselves by, you know, playing themselves. There’s a unique rhythm to the way these actors talk, and there are plenty of hilarious moments that feel as though they developed through improv. By playing versions of themselves, they get to take pot-shots at each other’s movies and send themselves up as vain, privileged celebrities. There’s even a nice meta bit where the characters start recording confessionals on Franco’s handi-cam from 127 Hours.
With this, Rogen’s first directorial effort with partner Evan Goldberg, they’ve taken what they’ve learned from their time under Judd Apatow’s tutelage and created a raunchy flick with an emotional core. There are plenty of bawdy jokes, tonnes of celebrity cameos and a number of flashy special effects sequences, but they never lose sight of the things that makes the film funny, which are characters and the specific ways they get on each others’ nerves.
And it needs to be stressed: this is actually laugh-out-loud funny. I know that should seem like a given when millions of dollars are spent making a comedy, but it’s not always the case. There’s a bit where Jonah Hill futzes around with a gun that may the funniest thing we’ve seen all year.
You’d think with the sheer volume of profanity and scatological jokes, this movie would be incredibly divisive, but it doesn’t feel that way. Some people may say that your enjoyment of the film depends on whether you like Seth Rogen.
But who doesn’t like Seth Rogen?
This is the End is in cinemas now