This is the End is a comedy written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The film is also the directorial debut for both Rogen and Goldberg and is based on the 2007 short comedy film, Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse. That short, was designed as a one-and-a-half minute movie trailer, eventually adapted into the feature film, This is the End. Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse follows two friends/actors who have shut themselves in their apartment and argue over their predicament during some unspecified end of the world event. This is the End embellishes on this story, throwing in real life friends/actors James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson. The actors star as fictionalized versions of themselves in the aftermath of a global apocalypse.
The movie opens up with Jay Baruchel arriving in Los Angeles to visit his old friend (and fellow actor) Seth Rogen. Jay is there for the weekend and he’s hoping for a quiet but pleasant visit with Seth, hanging out, eating Carl Jr.’s, getting high, and video games. After an initial simple hang out, Seth then mentions that he’s been invited to James Franco’s housewarming party and that they should both go later to stop by. A lot of Seth’s local friends will be there including and not limited to Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, and others such as Emma Watson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Jason Segel, etc. Jay states his displeasure of going to the party, as he only knows some or of Seth’s friends due to their celebrity stature, but also dislikes some of them, in particular Jonah Hill. Despite his pleas to just have a quiet and personal one-on-one time with Seth, Jay reluctantly finds himself at Franco’s house later in the evening. The party is a raucous with drinking, drugs, sex, and other maniacal, zany, hilarious acts including Craig Robinson’s performance of “Take Yo Panties Off” being sung to Rihanna.
Jay finds himself distanced from Seth throughout the night, and it’s become clear that their friendship has become estranged and is a point of tension throughout the movie. Finally getting Seth’s attention, Seth accompanies Jay on a four block walk to the local convenience store to pick up a pack of cigarettes. The two argue along the walk about each other’s actions, Seth’s inability to see what is bothering Jay and Jay’s inability to give Seth’s local friends a chance. While finally in the convenience store, a sudden earthquake hits the surrounding area. Seth is knocked to the floor and Jay is at a standstill as blue beams of light appear from the sky and suck up numerous individuals around him. Assisting Seth off the floor, the two run immediately back to James Franco’s house eluding the severe destruction going on around them. Finally reaching Franco’s house, it’s clear that the partygoers were/are unaware of what has happened and are reluctant to believe Seth and Jay’s story. But more so in particular Jay’s account of seeing people beamed up into the sky by blue light. An even more powerful earthquake hits, this time affecting the partygoers as they rush outside of the house to see what has happened. Now witnessing the mass destruction themselves, it’s clear something is going on and the rest of the movie conceptually is about surviving what appears to be the end of the world.
I won’t go into any more plot descriptive details beyond that. This is The End has been highly anticipated since its announcement and I must admit that as a concept, it had me genuinely intrigued. Comedy films in general have reached a relative formulaic approach and in recent times, since 2007 with ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘Super Bad’ the genre has been slowly redefined. The writers and actors associated with these films have been responsible for the sheer majority of the successful comedies that have been released in the past decade. And it’s these same writers and actors who star directly in This is The End. The film is a vanity project with the sell being the real life actors playing themselves by name, albeit fictionalized. It’s clear as a result all the actors have fun throughout the movie, it’s a great thing, but therein is also the mileage of the film itself.
This is The End is strictly dependent on how much you like the actors to begin with, their antics, and their natural ability to play off one another. I have to say I was admittedly all about the film through its first half, as it was fun to watch the actors react to the extraordinary events going around them. You expect the insanity, its fun to see, and is nicely balanced early on with seeing their casual interaction with one another. It’s a ‘behind the scenes’ sensibility we get to look at, that we aren’t privy to, because we only know them as actors and thus it’s an opportunity to see how they are in ‘real life’. And we assume that yeah, they’re probably really fun to be around. The problem however, is it’s not a party, we aren’t hanging out with them and despite the laughs – it’s still a movie.
A movie based on the simple principles which normally construct a beginning, middle, and an end. As a result, the film, once the apocalypse hits and much like Jay Baruchel’s character says himself, it’s the realization we’re stuck with these guys boarded up in James Franco’s house. Because of this sequencing, while there is a beginning to the film, there is no middle. It’s just a combination of in-jokes and meta-theatrical events that happen inside the house that fill the void: an argument about cum on a magazine, confessionals, the exorcism of Jonah Hill, a homemade movie sequel to Pineapple Express, just to name a few. At the half way point of the film, you’ll either find yourself in the camp of thoroughly enjoying it or in the camp, where I found myself wishing they would do more, as the screwball antics and idiocy eventually aren’t enough. The film is meant to be dumb and campy, but it’s reluctance to do more with a special opportunity with all the players involved is disappointing. The film stagnates as it becomes blatantly apparent that its’ one singular joke, the premise of the film itself and its satirical parody, has to carry throughout the entire 106 minute runtime. Until the group decides to, you know, not just wait around anymore. Their actions are more causal versus reactionary. Which isn’t what I expected from this group of actors and in general what you might expect of someone given it is the end of the world. For as smart as the film is, the actors, even if they are fictionalized, aren’t smart.
The film isn’t without its laughs, but I just don’t think the ultimate payoff is worthwhile as it’s less about the adventure of the film and more about how the film ends. Which in terms of band reunions, on-screen, I found myself enjoying strangely enough. At the end of it all, I found myself exceedingly torn on This is The End, as the start and finish isn’t enough to warrant sifting through 60 minutes of adlib for a middle. I expect more direction, actually in this case, just a little bit to begin with. This is The End is a fun attempt, but it still doesn’t excuse itself from the basic principles of what should constitute a movie.
I give This is The End a 6 out of 10.