This is the End – Rogen, Franco and chums party like there’s no tomorrow

The apocalypse is certainly upon us at the moment. Last weekend saw the UK release of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s latest doom-laden film The World’s End (2013), all about the imminent destruction of Earth when 5 friends return to their hometown for a pub crawl. This follows last months release of This is the End (2013), a comedy survival film that is all about…well, the end of the world. 6 years ago Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse (2007), a short film directed by Jason Stone and starring Rogen and Jay Baruchel as two friends holed up in an apartment when the world ends, with not much else to do other than sit around and talk (or argue). This is the End is the feature-length version of that short and is pretty much the same idea, albeit this time with a huge cast of celeb cameos and on a much bigger scale and budget. The apocalypse hits this time during an epic party at James Franco’s house. Earthquakes start, fires break out, sinkholes appear, and soon there are just 6 survivors left: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. With that group of mismatched people things inside the house quickly become as apocalyptic as the mysterious events happening outside…

There is an easy initial test that can be done to determine if you will like this latest ‘apoco-com’. If you liked the rude, crude comedy of either Superbad (2007) or Pineapple Express (2008), both of which were also written by Rogen and Goldberg, then you will love This is the End. In fact it is even ruder and cruder, and weirder, than those two put together. However if you hate this sort of humour then avoid at all costs – obviously. One of my favourite comedy films of all time is Superbad, so straight away I was won over. Rogen and Goldberg’s hilarious script for This is the End is brilliantly funny throughout, with some excellent one-liners as well as some very twisted humour later on. Both Rogen and Goldberg also co-direct this and although both are first time directors they have used assured and confident direction throughout creating brilliant looking atmospheric shots (yes, even in a comedy like this I notice that sort of thing) and more than one scene that will in the future go down as classic moments of this generation’s comedy cinema.

There are also plenty of funny cameos, many which of which are blink and you’ll miss them. Basically think of anyone who’s ever been in Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) or Pineapple Express or Superbad or Knocked Up (2007), or even think of a certain popular RnB star, and they’re in this. However most of the laughs actually come from the idea of having these celebs, cameo or otherwise, play themselves. It makes for a hugely self-referential film in which everyone is more than game to take the piss out of themselves as well as each other. Some of them even acknowledge past mistakes (“How about we NOT do ‘Your Highness 2’ ”). But the funniest moments are when the celebs play on their well-known personalities, either eschewing our public opinion of them or playing up to it. If you don’t even slightly giggle at Michael Cera’s outrageous cameo then you definitely need to check your funny bone.

As with any comedy though it is the main ensemble cast that truly bring the funny throughout the film, as well as carry the plot later on. The billings of James Franco and Seth Rogen will be the biggest draws for many people who want to watch this. And as usual they are both great, in particular Franco as he plays off his arty persona and his strange affection for best friend Seth. However it is actually the lesser-known actors in this who get the more screen time and attention. In particular Jay Baruchel, who is normally subjected to playing the awkward background geeky character (unless he’s voicing a character in a certain CGI dragon film), is actually the main hero in this. He plays on his nerdy persona as a guy who is slightly annoyed at having gotten famous and who hates the LA lifestyle with a passion. Craig Robinson who is also usually an incidental character is here shoved to the fore and is again absolutely hilarious, as is Jonah Hill who plays himself as a sort of camp parody. And Danny McBride plays on his usual asshole image that he perfected in TV show Eastbound & Down (2009-2013), creating his alter ego as a selfish idiot who can’t understand when others can’t see his narrow-minded viewpoint. But put all of them in a scene together and that is when the laughs really start flying, especially when some of them are obviously ad-libbing insulting and hilarious lines at each other.

This is the End is a laugh-out-loud comedy that is sometimes disgusting, sometimes rude but most importantly always hilarious, mostly because of a game cast who aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves for our viewing pleasure. The plot isn’t exactly watertight, especially later on when it starts to meander. It also runs the risk of becoming a clever idea that almost collapses under the weight of its own pretend alternate universe and its increasing amounts of ridiculous events. If you can suspend your disbelief for these moments though, including one of the most audacious endings you are likely to see this year, then you will thoroughly enjoy this.


~ by square-eyed-geek on July 24, 2013.

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