In Superbad and Pineapple Express, our protagonists’ recreational activities are stalled by a series of episodes of over dramatic and increasingly ludicrous events. With This Is The End, writing and directing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg take their previously established blueprint and push it even further and into the stratosphere, as a party at James Franco’s house becomes the unlikely host for the end of days. This is truly one of the loudest, crudest, most audacious and immature comedies of recent times, and all the better for it.
In attendance at the party to end all parties (sorry, Project X) are Rogen and Franco themselves, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Emma Watson, Rihanna and a whole host of names from Hollywood’s elite. With the coupling factors of everyone playing themselves and the grandiose settings, the first act of This Is The End could be annoyingly alienating, but the possibility for pretention is nicely offset by Jay Baruchel, Rogen’s Knocked Up co-star, who provides the disgruntled foil to all the celebrity hedonism around. More comfortable in his native Canada than Los Angeles, his attitude can be most accurately summarised when the rapture first announces itself and Baruchel finds himself seemingly more upset at the idea of dying at James Franco’s house than anything else. Like the best comedy bromances, Baruchel and Rogen’s is a relationship which, even in the face of impending doom, still hinges on the frustrations they have in one another for their different lifestyles, and with the former’s constant policing of the latter’s occasional errs toward irresponsibility, there’s more than a hint of Shaun of the Dead’s Shaun and Ed.
But the most successful comedic weapon in This Is The End’s arsenal is the brilliant skewering of its famous faces’ reputations. So we get Jonah Hill, overly nice and try hard in the aftermath of his Oscar nominated role opposite Brad Pitt (“I’m Jonah Hill…America’s sweetheart!”), James Franco is the pretentiously tortured aaaaaartiste who of course designed his own house, and Jason Segel is the frustrated sitcom star trapped in a life of monotonous scripts. But triumphing all of these is the all too brief glimpses into alt-universe Michael Cera’s life as a sleazy cokehead whose drug induced shenanigans see him irritating his old Superbad co-stars before hitting on Rihanna and locking himself in the bathroom with two groupies and a Capri-Sun. Emma Watson’s cameo as a take-no-shit baddass is also briefly fun but marred by its inclusion in every trailer.
Unsurprisingly for a film seeped in meta-narrative, This Is The End is dripping in movie references, some more successful than others. Whilst there’s an awkward reference to Rosemary’s Baby which fell uncomfortably in our screening, these kinds of moments are outnumbered by a mocking and well played collection of self-depricating exchanges as the characters/actors often find themselves ridiculing each other’s filmographies as tensions rise in their artsy fort. These exchanges make up the bulk of the ever-so-slightly saggy middle section of the film, and just when you begin to tire the film hits you with the kind of hilarious montage which can only reassure you of Rogen and Goldberg’s firm handle on pace.
All in all This Is The End is a monstrously lewd and chaotically structured obliteration of the value of fame, Hollywood, and all the shallow, hedonistic pomposity therein. But most of all, it’s just damn funny.