This is the End (2013)
“Nothing ruins a party like the end of the world.”
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen
Synopsis: While attending a party at James Franco’s house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse.
This is the End has the feel of a vanity project about it; not just for one actor, however, but for an entire acting community, and the danger of vanity projects is that those involved come off as egotists who have lost their sense of perspective. Too often, This is the End seems to throw questions at the audience that are really just cues for compliments to be paid: Aren’t we great? Isn’t this wacky? Look — we’re using our real names! We’re playing ourselves, but we’re also taking the piss out of ourselves, so it’s ok! We’re even making ourselves look inept and unreliable – how cool is that?
The story sees Seth Rogen, greeting the comments of passing strangers — which are just as likely to be vaguely insulting as complimentary — with embarassed discomfort as he waits for his friend Jay Baruchel’s flight to arrive at LA Airport. Baruchel, who dislikes the Los Angeles lifestyle, rarely visits, so they have plenty to catch up on back at Rogen’s place, much of which involves watching 3D TV and smoking joints. After a while, though, Rogen talks his obviously reluctant friend into accompanying him to a housewarming party held by James Franco, where they find themselves in the company of a number of celebrities, including Rihanna, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The party is going great until an earthquake causes a gaping hole, which evidently descends straight into the pits of hell, to open up in the middle of Franco’s lawn, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. Rogen and Baruchel both make it back to the safety of Franco’s house, as does the owner himself, together with fellow actors Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson. The following morning, they’re joined by Danny McBride, who slept through the whole thing in Franco’s bath tub.
The rest of the movie follows this sorry crew’s attempts to survive both the over-running of the earth by demons from hell and living with five people who have only the loosest grasp of the social niceties of co-habitation as they sit out the end of days in Franco’s fortress-like mansion. The six of them argue forever over who’s going to get to eat a Milky Way, play accidental football with a severed head, argue over stroke mags, film a sequel to Pineapple Express, and receive a visit from Emma Watson, who steals all their water after mistakenly believing they’re planning to rape her. But things get even worse when (in a spoof of Rosemary’s Baby) one of them is sodomised by the devil.
Apparently, approximately fifty per-cent of the dialogue for This is the End was improvised, and you know what? I have no problem believing that. Because there’s a brilliant comedy suffocating within a morass of flabby self-indulgence that too often sees initially funny set-ups drained of all their humour because their practitioners just don’t know when to stop. It seems this isn’t unusual when friends get together to make a movie —just think back to all those dreary Rat Pack movies. When the humour does work it’s real funny stuff — trust me, you’ll never be able to watch Jason Miller intoning ‘the power of Christ compels you!’ in The Exorcist again without seeing Baruchel, draped in a blanket, being ridiculed by an incredulous Seth Rogen — but too often it feels like the actors on the screen are finding the lines they’re speaking a lot funnier than the audience is — or at least this member of it. Credit at least has to be given for a unique storyline, and an interesting exploration of how extreme situations expose the shallowness of friendships which those involved mistakenly believe to be more profound than they really are, but the film’s rambling narrative (it feels a lot longer than 107 minutes) and indisciplined direction ultimately proves to be its downfall.