When a comedy has this many big names headlining — James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson (“The Office”), Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel (the voice of Hiccup in “How To Train Your Dragon”) — and even more cameos — Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling (“The Mindy Project”), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from “Superbad”), Channing Tatum and pop star Rihanna (the list really does go on) — all starring as themselves, the final product usually tanks (just look at “Movie 43”). Not so for “This is the End”, 2013’s best comedy thus far. This film will give you a laughing buzz you won’t soon come down from.
A film premise doesn’t get more outlandish, and somehow remain kind of realistic. Seth picks up Jay from the airport (LAX, I assume) for a weekend on the town. Even though Jay is a well known star just like his best friend, all Seth’s other bros — Franco and company — are harsh on Jay’s nostalgic connection to his fellow Canadian star who now owns Los Angeles. Jay hates all the tools Seth now surrounds himself with.
That is rather problematic when these BFFs head to Franco’s housewarming party. But this bromance needs to shelve brewing tension when the apocalypse hits, and all the good people of Earth head to heaven. Predictably enough, no one at the party leaves for those pearly gates, and after an enormous sinkhole devours the majority of the film’s big names, our ragtag headliners must make do with the scraps of the city that haven’t caught fire.
This is one of the most self-serving films out there, save most of that M. Night Shyamalan junk. But unlike pretentious or just plain boring self-parodies, “This is the End” has more charm amidst all the chaos. There’s something fantastic about actors parodying themselves. James’ infatuation with Seth is less bromance and more crazed fan. Jonah camouflages his hatred for Jay beneath a soft and jovial smile. Michael Cera is a huge cocaine addict who doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself (just ask Rihanna). And Danny … well he’s the same guy in all his films, and apparently all his actual “friends” loath him. As for Jay and Seth, they’re the only clear cut characters of the bunch.
Like most Rogen, Hill, Franco and McBride films, “This is the End” has all the vulgarity, violence and stoner humor that is expected. Sure, there is a surprising amount of visual effects and shock moments — like some great deaths of beloved celebs — but the film finds its stride in the midst of idle banter. The world might be ending, but at least Franco’s house provides these guys an excuse to spend the day bickering, confessing their feelings on a videocam prop from “127 Hours” and get really, really high. Franco and McBride share the film’s best moment, though I can’t provide any specifics here (it wouldn’t be appropriate).
While the film shamelessly unites Hollywood’s most popular young comedy stars, the story is actually based on a 2007 short, “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse”, which focuses on the relationship between Seth and Jay. Akin to “I Love You, Man” and “Superbad” (hmmm, I feel like some of those actors overlap), this is the story of a friendship surviving impossible odds. What better test than to place our protagonists in a dystopian L.A. under attack from demons and cannibalistic road warriors. If the bromance fire can survive that, everything else should be a breeze.
Rogen joins longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”, “Pineapple Express” and “Green Hornet”) to co-direct the pair’s first film. With a few exceptions, they know how to pen some amazingly crass flicks, and now they can take out the middle-director. Sure, it’s a narratively rough ride on occasion and 10 minutes too long, but the asinine concept and ludicrous third act make for an experience you won’t soon forget –– even if you just remember how quickly things escalate.
Separately, the film’s stars have created many better films, but the chemistry here is ripe, and the laughs keep coming. No, “This is the End” doesn’t create the end-all comedy of the decade (and the year is still young), but it’s worth a viewing or two.
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