This Is the End (2013)
Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
This Is the End opens with co-writer/director Seth Rogen picking up long-time friend and fellow Canadian Jay Baruchel at the airport. As they stroll through the terminal, excited for a night of drinking, smoking pot, and playing video games, a man brandishing a camera approaches them and begins to pester Seth, asking him “Why do you play the same character in every movie?”
This is certainly an apt assessment of a man whose characters tend to gravitate toward either the role of a slacker with an affinity for pot or a charming buffoon. But they say “write what you know,” and that’s exactly what Seth Rogen and partner Evan Goldberg do with the apocalyptic comedy based on the short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse. In it we see Seth, always the lovable slacker stoner, convince Jay, who really doesn’t like Los Angeles or its denizens, to check out a housewarming party being thrown by James Franco and attended by the likes of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, and coke fiend Michael Cera. The party, along with Jay’s plans to just go back to Seth’s house and lay low for the rest of the night, hits a bump in the road when the apocalypse hits. Most are killed, leaving Seth, Jay, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride trapped inside Franco’s house while they deal with not only the demons outside the house but inner demons as well.
Following the screening I attended, I was privy to a conversation that can more or less be summed up as follows: “I enjoyed it, but it’s clearly a movie made for men.” It might seem slightly sexist, but she’s kind of right, though not in the way you might think. While women can - and will! - enjoy the film as equally as men, it’s simply that it will be seen as more relatable to men because the six adult children in the film are a microcosm of almost every group of guy friends I can think of. They represent the archetypes found in almost every circle of friends, albeit in a rather exaggerated form, and for those in their late twenties and early thirties, the theme of friendship allows for this seemingly simple comedy about a bunch of stoners facing their fate to reach greater, more personal heights. At least it does for me.
The dialogue is typical Rogen and Goldberg fare: subversive, absurd, insulting, and filled with enough dick, fart, and masturbation jokes to make your mother blush. But it’s different here. It takes on a new meaning not only because it accurately portrays how guy friends talk when they’re alone together, but because it fits in so perfectly with the overarching theme of friendship. They bicker over minutiae, volley an endless stream of insults at each other, and yes, even talk shit behind each other’s backs, the apocalypse be damned.
The personal resonance aside, This Is the End is a fairly brilliant commentary on celebrity culture, tackling subjects such as excess, selling out, and selfishness in a way that gives off the impression that the film is a giant act of catharsis for the filmmakers. It’s all mired in self-deprecation and humor, but there’s a tinge of earnestness there that, when combined with the aforementioned theme of friendship, elevates the film above and beyond a typical stoner comedy.
The bulk of the film is set inside Franco’s newly-destroyed home, sandwiched between an opening scene of admittedly weak CGI and a third act filled with more CGI demon cock than I ever thought I’d see in a single film. The look of the apocalypse itself is great, with thick pockets of smoke glowing orange as fires engulf the Hollywood Hills and brilliantly crafted demons, initially obscured by the smoke and flames, becoming an action centerpiece in the third act. Supported by a diverse and exceedingly appropriate soundtrack and an incredible cast, This Is the End is Rogen and Goldberg through and through, and despite the inane criticisms of the unknown paparazzi at the beginning of the film, that’s definitely not a bad thing.
4 out of 5