This Is the End is a perfectly enjoyable comedy from directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing team behind such films as Superbad and Pineapple Express. Their story of a bunch of real-world actors playing fictitious versions of themselves during the Apocalypse has a lot of potential, and earns plenty of laughs thanks to a slew of in-jokes and cheeky cameo appearances. It’s got a clear audience in mind, what with its strong reliance on crude and self-referential humour, so if you’ve been a fan of Rogen’s output in the past then this’ll likely be right up your alley.
I can’t say that’s me however, as the film lacks wit and charm and stretches several jokes too far that they become tired and overused. Of course, I suspect some will find the content itself distasteful, such as jokes about who would be most likely to rape Emma Watson (Harry Potter’s Hermione), but that wasn’t me – although I could have done without the unnecessary crutch of phallic imagery. The movie really didn’t need a towering CG colossus of Satan replete with private bits for the world to see. It’s all pretty debauched and drug-laden, with totally exaggerated caricatures of its lead actors.
All of whom are fine, by the way – probably because they’re just playing over the top versions of themselves. Suffice to say that there aren’t any outstanding comic performances in This Is the End. Rather, what works is the interplay of the core cast afforded by the aforementioned apoco-premise, which begins with Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen arriving at James Franco’s housewarming party. Franco’s pad is a bed of excess, hedonism and the lowest common denominator, where drink, drugs and sex are the be all and end all. There’s a fantastic appearance early on by a high Michael Cera but once all Hell breaks loose (literally), the majority of the supporting cast are killed off leaving only Baruchel, Rogen and Franco with Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride in tow. The ensemble use Franco’s prized art collection to barricade his ‘fortress’ of a house while the world outside goes to slag.
With the opening act done away with there are a lot of potential places for the movie to go, but like its characters the plot becomes trapped within Franco’s modern mansion until the grand finale. Instead, we get an uneven production with dodgy special effects, unsavoury characters (all of the righteous were saved from the Apocalypse and sent to Heaven) and an hour or so of bickering over who gets to eat a Mars bar and other ration-related shenanigans. Throw in the overabundance of phallic jokes and symbolism and you have an audacious comedy that yields consistent laughs, but of a vulgar nature that wastes the comedic potential of its starting point. Ultimately, Rogen and Goldberg’s latest doesn’t bear scrutiny, being neither particularly well put together as a story nor as a piece of filmmaking. It’s funny, sure – but it’s no Tropic Thunder.
This Is the End lets its jokes drive its plot and leaves everything else burning by the wayside.