Of all the disaster films coming out this year, it’s pleasantly surprising to see that the best one by far is the comedy This Is The End, written by bar-mitzvah class buddies Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Think about it—you’ve got all-star casts in not one, but TWO “White House gets hijacked” movies, and they aren’t even close to the screenplay produced by a couple of guys that probably met touching each other’s balls in Hebrew school once. That’s impressive.
This Is The End stars Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and a room full of other celebrities as exaggerated versions of themselves. Jay has flown into LA to visit Seth for the weekend, and Seth drags him to Franco’s lavish house in the Hollywood Hills for a good-old fashioned party. Then the literal apocalypse, straight out of the Book of Revelation, joins the festivities—upon which gore, absurdity, and hilarity all ensue.
There were a lot of ways this premise could have backfired. Rich, famous actors playing themselves? Frivolous violence and destruction? The actual apocalypse? Isn’t that all a little too conceited and ridiculous?
The answer is a resounding no. To look at this film on paper and assume it would be absolute shit is to ignore the writing skills of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, who were coached by one Judd Apatow starting early in their careers (Seth mainly, but of course whatever he benefited from, so did Evan). Granted, not everything these guys and the Apatow name have produced is quality work, but all of those shortcomings and more are exploited in sharp, unapologetic fashion throughout This Is The End.
Each lead character in the film is picked on in the script—Seth, right from the get-go, gets blasted by a fan for only ever playing himself. Jay’s self-righteousness (though clearly he’s carrying a lot of Evan Goldberg beneath the wiry frame) shines way too bright. Craig turns out not to be as hard as he “pretends” as an actor. Franco’s somewhat pretentious obsession with art is thrown in the audience’s face. Danny McBride’s who-gives-a-fuck attitude gets taken to higher levels even than we’ve seen on Eastbound and Down. Quite possibly the funniest though, is the SUPER nice, Academy Award-nominated Jonah Hill…from the film Moneyball. All these guys have flaws, and they’re exploited to hilarious effect—providing a deeper, real commentary on the entitled nature of Hollywood as a whole.
Once all of these jokes were in full swing, it almost didn’t matter that what was happening on the surface. Yes, the apocalypse provided a great deal of hilarious scenes, and yes, there was a little bit of best-friends-drifting-apart angst to push the story forward. What’s really of interest here though, and how shockingly effective it plays out, is the willingness of these actors to stomp all over themselves. With the exception of a coked out, womanizing Michael Cera (who might have stolen the film), these portrayals are very honest and humble, allowing viewers to laugh along with them.
Steve Martin once famously said, “you just can’t sing a depressing song when you’re playing the banjo.” Similarly, you really can’t have a bad time watching this group of friends shoot the shit on screen. When they’re blatantly having the time of their lives making a film, and have a great script to back it up, all you can do is smile, laugh, and wonder how to make their lives your day job.