I know this won’t be a popular statement for the 80 or 90 people that loved Freaks and Geeks in 1999, but I’m glad it got cancelled if it led this group of young actors to strive for a level of celebrity that allows for a film like This is the End to be made and to work so well!
This is the End is another example of pseudo-reality entertainment in the style of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where actors play versions of themselves albeit sometimes deeply ironic versions of themselves; I’m talking to you, Michael Cera – at least I hope I am! Seth Rogan wrote and directed this film along with his partner, Evan Goldberg, and the film clearly benefits from having someone so close to the actors involved with all parts of the production.
This is the End opens simply enough with Seth Rogan meeting his friend Jay Baruchel at the airport. They plan to hang out in LA and eventually end up heading to James Franco’s new house for a big house-warming party. The opening act of this film is a cameo-filled (Emma Watson, Rhianna, and Paul Rudd to name a few) laugh fest that just piles on the humor in ways that a big-screen comedy hasn’t done since The Hangover in 2009. The comedy is not just name-dropping cheap laughs though. Rogan and Franco along with Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel have permeated their way into celebrity in such a way that they can satirize the entertainment business through self-referential humor. Rogan has written a screenplay that characteristically paints his characters as corrupted in one way or another by the entertainment industry, and this biting satire plays out far beyond the opening act.
Rogan also makes a series of wise choices as both a writer and a director that keep this film from quickly growing stale. Most notably is his decision to play the rest of the film as a true disaster film. Once the inevitable apocalypse begins, it is not treated as a joke to introduce more absurdity. Instead, it is used as a backdrop of real danger designed to continue the motif of contempt that has built up in the characters. That is not to say the laughs stop coming – that is in no way true. However, the balance of humor and real danger keep the film fresh and alive.
The apocalypse that hits is quickly discovered to be a literal onset of the Book of Revelations complete with the Rapture and the arrival of Satan on Earth. Such high stakes force the boys to hole up in Franco’s house along with Craig Robertson and Danny McBride. Irreverent humor abounds with some of the meanest, nastiest, low-brow, toilet humor imaginable – all of it hilarious. Occasionally, the film hits a slight snag in terms of pacing and some of the gross-out humor is tasteless and extreme, but it is hardly at the film’s detriment. The film has a little bit of something for everyone; in fact, even fans of The Backstreet Boys owe this film a tremendous debt of gratitude for preserving a shred of their relevance in cinematic history.
Rogan and company have truly tapped into a genre of humor that grows along with them. In one scene, they try to kill boredom by filming crude home-movie versions of sequels of their own films. Somebody get to work on this exact version of Pineapple Express 2 immediately! In fact, This is the End would be a great exclamation point at the end of the “end of the world” movie fad that has been so commonly explored in entertainment lately. However, with World War Z, The World’s End, and Elysium still to come this summer along with fall’s second installment of The Hunger Games series, it’s clear that we are far from done with this genre. A-
This is the End is rated R – very, very, very R – and has a running time of 1 hour and 59 minutes. It is heavy on the raunch, and while I highly recommend it as a comedy, it is not for the easily offended.