This Is the End – Review
By David Baldwin
Jay Baruchel is in town to meet up with his friend Seth Rogen. Despite Jay’s insistence to just hang out on their own, Seth takes him to a wild party being thrown at James Franco’s new house. After running into a number of celebrities, Jay just wants to leave. But after a near fatal encounter at a convenience store, Jay is certain something bad is happening. Sure enough, a sinkhole opens in the lawn, followed by death and complete chaos in the surrounding area. The three celebrities quickly barricade themselves inside James’ house alongside Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride. They are certain they will be rescued, but it quickly becomes apparent the event going on outside is actually the apocalypse.
Celebrities playing exaggerated and not-so exaggerated versions of themselves? The apocalypse, the rapture, heaven and hell? As the trailers began appearing for This Is the End, I was not exactly sure that a comedy like this could be made, much less actually be funny. But rather surprisingly, Rogen alongside writing/directing partner Evan Goldberg have crafted a sweet and hilarious send-up of one of the darkest subject matters around, and have a whole lot of fun doing it in the process.
From the start, I must note that your enjoyment of This Is the End hinges directly on how you feel about the six lead actors the film centres on. The scenes where they are all not together on-screen come very few and far between. So if you are not a fan of any of their distinct styles of humour, you may just have to miss out.
But for fans of these actors, this is truly an incredible feat. I could barely hear what they were saying to each other on-screen because everyone was laughing so hard. Rogen and Goldberg wisely crib from Judd Apatow and allow their cast to improvise and have fun with the circumstances they have been thrown into. Thankfully, they are much better in tune with brevity than their own teacher. Practically everyone gets a moment to shine and is ridiculously funny at all times. McBride steals the show with his over-the-top personality that casts a shadow over anyone in his way, as does Michael Cera who shows up in the first act in a totally out of character performance that is equally memorable and cringe-worthy. The friendship subplot that runs throughout the film between Baruchel and Rogen could have been better explored, but is rather touching and emotional in certain instances.
I found of the main cast, the only member who seemed to be struggling and not having any fun was Hill, who plays the entire film very low-key. It may be deliberate on the part of the script to make everyone else appear to be doing a better job, but it is jarring to see him basically phone in the majority of his scenes.
My main and only real issue with the film is that for the first two acts, the film plays out exactly how I assumed it would. Everything is fine, the apocalypse happens, chaos ensues, and then what? The film stutters quite a bit during the “what?” portion, throwing jokes furiously at the audience, and never suggesting even a hint of knowing where it is headed. This is not to say the film is not funny – it actually maintains its absurdly dark humour the entire time. The meta-ness of the film (something that could easily be talked about at length in its own article) gets amped up during this portion as well, making you question the reality versus the fiction of what these characters are doing and saying. What is improvised and what is scripted? As hilarious as it is, I am certain studio execs cannot be pleased with their stars putting down their own films.
While that material is questionable, it leads to more than a few instances where the scenes and ideas feel half cooked, as if they were shortened or just not included in the first place. I imagine the Unrated Blu-ray will shed light on many of these moments, but the film has an odd movement to it that I still cannot quite pinpoint.
Whatever issues the film has disappear within seconds of the third act starting. The trailers have only begun to suggest the ludicrously twisted finale Rogen and Goldberg have cooked up for the film. You can practically feel the film turn from misdirection to knowing its exact path, and you will not be prepared for any of it. To spoil or hint at any of it would be a disservice to the film. Suffice to say, it just may be the most insane and ridiculously satisfying conclusion of the year, and potentially even the decade. It is just that good.
This Is the End may seem like a silly concept, but it delivers the most laughs you will likely have all summer with heart to spare. It is quite possibly the most demented and unique film to come from the mainstream in a very long time. This is a solid directorial debut from Rogen and Goldberg; one that I sincerely hope will not end up being a one-off. I have been quoting it endlessly for weeks, and have done my very best not to spoil the surprises that will leave you gasping for breath. I just hope everyone else will be just as kind.