I was a little worried when I first saw trailers for This is the End as the premise seemed to be remarkably similar to the forthcoming conclusion of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End. Fortunately though, it appears that the films have very little in common. This is the End is an apocalyptic comedy film written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The pair, who have collaborated in the past with the likes of Superbad and Pineapple Express here deliver a film in which some of the funniest names in Hollywood (and Danny McBride) play versions of themselves during an apocalyptic event.
Rogen meets old friend and actor Jay Baruchel at the airport for one of Jay’s infrequent visits to Tinsletown. Hoping to catch up, Jay instead finds himself at James Franco’s house-warming party where he feels uncomfortable and out of place with fellow actors and celebrities. As he nips out for some cigarettes, Jay bares witness to what at first appears to be an earthquake but soon becomes apparent to be something much more destructive. As the end of the world turns the Hollywood Hills to ash, a few actors are left holed up in James Franco’s house with nothing but a few beers, some drugs and a milky bar to sustain them.
The film originated with a 90 second trailer which was posted on YouTube in 2007 but is expanded here to include themes of friendship, celebrity and survival. I’ll say off the bat that I enjoyed the movie and laughed a lot but it isn’t without problems. Something which works both with and against the film is the set-up. Seeing the likes of James Franco, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen hanging out is great fun and it made me want to be a part of their group, wisecracking, smoking weed and generally titting about. As fun as this is to watch, it occasionally feels as though you’re standing in the window, looking inside, uninvited to the party. It almost feels as though your face is being rubbed in their fun and I found this annoying at times.
Something else which I’m on the fence about are the characters themselves. The closing credits reads ‘Seth Rogen – Seth Rogen’ ‘Craig Robinson – Craig Robinson’ etc rather than ‘Seth Rogen – Himself’. This helps the audience to understand that the actors are playing characters, rather than heightened versions of themselves though of course there is a lot of each actor in the roles the play. I do think though that there is a subtle difference in the two methods and that by going down the route the film chooses, it can get away with much more. I liked that a lot of the characters were recognisably versions of themselves while others were totally different to how you’d imagine them but some of the characters grated with me. Jonah Hill’s nice guy act soon wore thin and I found Danny McBride deeply annoying from start to finish. There were others though, most notably Michael Cera who pitched themselves perfectly. Many of the best early scenes are Cera based.
There’s a nice spread of recognisable faces that appear in cameos of varying sizes and importance. Being from across the pond, there were a couple of people I didn’t recognise who I expect are on US TV but the likes of The Rihanna, Jason Segal and Mindy Kaling pop up. It’s obvious that some actors were only on set for a day or even a couple of hours but for the most part, the cameos work well. Paul Rudd’s felt wasted though but the best cameo is saved for last. The script is loose which gives the actors the chance to riff off each other and some of the best lines are those which are thrown away and barely register. There are times in the middle third where the film falls a bit flat and occasionally it drags but due to the comedic talent on screen it isn’t long before a witty or outrageous line brings everything back on track.
I like what the film says about the nature of celebrity in both that the actors ponder whether what they do has meaning and are worthy of being saved as well how an ascent towards celebrity-hood can affect relationships with old friends. Something else which works well is that the actors aren’t afraid to make fun of themselves. Had egos got in the way then the film wouldn’t be half the fun it is but in jokes about failures (Your Highness) pepper the script alongside talk of success. There’s even a nice little mini-movie of Pineapple Express 2, done on an ultra, ultra low budget. This is one of the many comedic highlights. Once the film moves beyond the confines of the Franco house I felt that it lost its way slightly but this is towards the end and it has to go somewhere I guess. There are several action scenes late on and I found the direction in these was sometimes messy and overly clustered. At times though, it was excellent and overall the direction was fine from the first time co-directing team.
The film has moved towards the top of my girlfriend’s greatest ever film endings and while I won’t spoil it here, those who have seen it will be able to guess why. Like a lot of the film, I had mixed feelings about the conclusion. It’s a bit too ‘Hollywood’ for me but it’s pretty funny and the film does enough in the previous 95 minutes to let it off. Overall, despite a couple of missteps and some fluff in the middle, This is the End is a very enjoyable movie which made me laugh more than enough times to class it as a hit in my books.