A film where every actor/celebrity is playing an over-exaggerated version of themselves reeks of all different kinds of vanity, the kind that continues to emanate from raunchy self-indulgent post-Judd Apatow tripe. With its surprising directorial nuance and barrage of cameos and split-second non-stop laughs, comedy writing duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s latest collaboration (and directorial debut) This Is The End powers through a script that substitutes bromantic fantasy with pathos by just being an absolute riot to watch.
Current Hollywood comedy bit player du jour Jay Baruchel lands in LA to see long lost bud Seth Rogen, now a garish Hollywood heavyweight, who Baruchel worries may leave him behind. The two wind up at James Franco’s house for the party to end all parties, complete with celebrity cameos, musical serenades, cocaine clouds, and ass grabbing; the party winds up a prelude to a very different kind of end…the literal biblical End of Days. After an earthquake opens up a portal to Hell on the front lawn, the surviving celebrities, including Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride have to contend with the Apocalypse (and each other) while they frantically find their way out.
The main joke compliments the conceit of the film very well; what if a whole bunch of really funny guys are cooped up in a house where they do really funny things amid random celebrity cameos and adolescent mid-90s nostalgia for an hour and forty minutes? The cast is game, which puts the jokes more on the side of hit than miss; each of the main 6 is playing up major aspects of their public personae (Hill’s holier than thou attitude post-Oscar nomination, Franco’s hipster performance art poster boy, Robinson’s tendency to sweat a whole bunch) to great effect here. Not since last summer’s Ted has a film barraged audiences with gratuitous comedy yet still manage to appeal so broad and stay so consistently hilarious.
What’s even more surprising about This Is The End is Rogen/Goldberg’s juggling of meta-comedy with action horror elements; the apocalyptic scenario is wisely not just utilized as a mere device to keep them constrained to the house. Loads of practical gore effects, demonic creatures, and even a surprise possession keep things varied enough to draw attention away from the overlong runtime and insubstantial relationship between Seth and Jay. Seeing as how the film stemmed from a short they created called Jay and Seth versus The Apocalypse, the constant shifts in rhythm from raunchy comedy to half-assed affection don’t quite hold the same sincere weight they did in Knocked Up or Superbad.
This Is The End is a film that doesn’t need such emotional resonance to be worth the watch, however; the cast works incredibly well at keeping their one joke fresh and the Rogen/Goldberg team prove to be funnier than ever, which ensures its place as the summer comedy to end all comedies…or does that smack of tempting fate?