The thought of spending the end of days trapped in a fancy Beverly Hills mansion is quite appealing but being forced to spend it with a group of actors, as is the concept in This Is The End, might fill you with dread. Thankfully writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg seem to understand this better than anyone.
In L.A. for the weekend, Jay Baruchel intends to spend time with his best friend Seth Rogen getting stoned and kicking-back. But when he’s dragged to a Hollywood party hosted by James Franco, Jay soon discovers the least of his problem is the L.A. lifestyle he loathes so much. With the rapture arriving and taking half the population up to heaven, Baruchel and Rogen find themselves taking shelter with Franco, nice guy Jonah Hill, arrogance personified Danny McBride and scaredy-cat Craig Robinson. As the proverbial begins to really hit the fan the actors must figure out just how they’re going to survive the end of the world.
While the carnage of This Is The End, especially the opening scenes of Franco’s party complete with a coke-snorting, womanizing Michael Cera, are a lot of fun the real laughs come from this group of familiar actors playing the clichéd screen and media presences they’ve made their careers from. So Rogen is the loveable schlub, Baruchel the smart-ass dope-head, Hill is almost too charming to be real, always happy to remind people he’s an Oscar nominated actor, McBride is the douche you want to hate but makes you laugh and Franco is the artsy, self-absorbed, potentially closeted homosexual.
As such much of the puerile humour, and it is often puerile especially towards the end where devil and demon penises seem to be the source of entertainment, is made all the more funny by the obvious self-referencing. In another film a line such as “James Franco didn’t suck any d*ck last night? Now I know you’re tripping” might be deemed as unnecessarily over the top, but given Franco’s often speculated sexual preference it’s hard not to watch This Is The End with a twisted smile that perfectly plays into celebrity culture.
What is clear is that plot comes secondary to set pieces and gags. Based on Rogen and Goldberg’s short film Jay And Seth Vs. The Apocalypse, This Is The End never really works as on overall story. Yes there’s a beginning, middle and outrageously over the top funny end, but little else holding it all together. So you are treated to one too many montages of the gang getting high but when you throw in an angry Emma Watson, a gimp Channing Tatum and The Backstreet Boys who cares?
Firmly from the Judd Apatow stable, to such a degree that at one point Franco turns to Rogen and says “Freaks Forever” – a reference to where many of the cast started on Apatow’s short lived comedy Freaks And Geeks – This is The End might have too many cock and ball jokes for some but it is nonetheless a solid frat-boy comedy which manages to find a thoroughly agreeable ending.