If you happen to like the comedic offerings of most of the actors involved in This is the End, you’re going to enjoy this movie. The actors involved are Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride. The film’s premise is that all of these people — playing themselves — wind up having to survive when the biblical Apocalypse happens. Hilarity is supposed to ensue, because these are “funny people” and “funny people” are, well, funny.
The majority of the picture takes place in a newly built mansion owned by James Franco. Jay Baruchel has recently flown down to Hollywood in order to rekindle his friendship with Seth Rogen, and the latter decides that they’re going to Franco’s housewarming party. This provides numerous cameos, none of which I’m going to spoil. It’s surprising just how many celebrities they convinced to take part in this. You don’t expect to see the likes of, say– No, I said I wouldn’t spoil it and I’m not going to. Watch the trailer if you want some of the appearances ruined.
I’d like to keep the cameos a secret because they provide a large chunk of the laughs that This is the End has to offer. The other way it will make you laugh is by having the characters either exaggerate or subvert the personalities that we’ve ascribed to them over the years. Jay Baruchel is a hipster, Seth Rogen is (more of) a stoner, Danny McBride goes to the dark side once demons appear, Jonah Hill is the self-proclaimed “America’s Sweetheart,” James Franco is an arty eccentric (so no change there), and Craig Robinson is … okay, he doesn’t really do this; he’s playing the Craig Robinson character we see in everything.
However, for me at least, these two things made up for the vast majority of the laughs in the film. If I were to guess, I’d wager I laughed about once every ten minutes. That’s not a good laughs-per-minute ratio, and it includes a lot of dead time. The problem is that I don’t like a lot of these actors unless they’re at the top of their game. This is a movie made so friends can hang out and make their fan bases laugh, so they’re not going to be putting in much of an effort. They’re literally playing themselves.
There are some small chuckles here and there. When the Rapture occurs before the more devastating “end of the world” stuff, it’s clever to see characters outside of Franco’s house get brought into heaven but upon returning to the party, nobody noticed everything because, well, they’re all corrupt celebrities. Laughs came, also, from a mock sequel to Pineapple Express. Can we make that for real?
Eventually, the film degenerates into a by-the-numbers “end of the world” movie before wrapping up far too quickly for its own good. After a discovery is made late in the game that might be good for a few laughs an another 20 minutes of running time, it felt like we got about five minutes before everyone is dead and singing along to a Backstreet Boys song. No, I’m not joking. There’s a near full-length Backstreet Boys dance number in a 2013 movie. I didn’t laugh but I’m sure some will. I was just in shock.
Then again, shock humor is frequently what This is the End goes for, and that has to be really potent to make me laugh or be in shock. It’s all profane and things you don’t talk about in polite conversation, but it’s not really all that funny and we’ve seen and heard most of it before. If this movie came out in 1980 it would have been banned; in 2013, it’s acceptable to be released with an R rating. You see demon penis in this movie!
I suppose what’s most surprising about This is the End is that the destruction scenes aren’t really played for laughs. Sure, it’s funny to see fictional [actor’s name redacted] get speared with a lamp post, but all of the post-apocalypse stuff has actually been competently rendered. The CGI isn’t bad and while these types of films can easily get away with cheaping out on their scenes of the world burning or being ruined, this one doesn’t. While the actors can get away with putting in a half-effort, the directorial team of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen didn’t (at least, when it came to crafting the film).
The misfires are far more frequent than the hits in This is the End, but I’m sure that comes more from me than from the film. If you like the actors involved and want to see them exaggerate or subvert their typical screen persona, and want to see a great deal of funny cameos, you’ll likely have a good time with the movie. I didn’t laugh a lot, and I can’t recommend it based on that, but it really comes down to how much you enjoy watching these actors when they’re not at the top of their game. If you’re a fan regardless, then you’ll have fun. If you’re not, you’ll probably want to skip this one.