Stars — they're just like us. So when the apocalypse hits Hollywood, they freak out, hunker down, ration food and drop the "I love you, man" veneer to tell each other what they really think. That's the premise of This Is the End, a comedy written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
All your favorite young comic actors are partying at James Franco's house when the End of Time breaks out. Most are killed, leaving Rogen, Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride boarded up in the house and trying to salvage the nightmare. "Just because a bunch of people fell into a hole outside doesn't mean we can't have fun," explains Hill.
Just as last year's Seven Psychopaths rewarded fans for all the post-modern crime films they'd watched, so too does End give back to devotees of recent R-rated comedies, many of which featured these actors. (This film, too, is rated R — for weed, endless profanity and graphic demon nudity.)
So there are in-jokes and extended riffs on earlier works. (A film-within-the-film is a Pineapple Express sequel.) Similarly, each actor plays his best-known on-screen version — Rogen is lovable, Baruchel high-strung, Hill obsequious, McBride obnoxious — and all are called out on it. ("Seth Rogen, you play the same guy in all your movies.")
Besides vulgar comedy, the filmmakers shoehorn in mini-bites of other genres, such as the confessional cameras of reality TV; the hangout vibe of a talky indie; a rave; a POV from a severed head; disaster-pic special effects; and a selection of manly-film tropes.
But the spine of the comedy is the troubled bromance between Rogen and Baruchel. Their friendship, rooted in Canada, has suffered since Rogen moved to L.A. and began flirting with a new, trendier BFF, Franco. The apocalypse tests their relationship, as well as the bona fides of the others. As the crisis continues, the increasingly desperate crew even falls to debating morality and theology; the Bible is consulted, and there is an exorcism.
This all sounds more clever in the abstract than what I actually experienced watching the film. The movie has dead air, jokes that fall flat, too much McBride and too many f-words. But because this is a meta-comedy, those very same complaints came up in the film. Boom! They got me! If you loved these guys in their other movies, you'll love this one. And if you thought the previous films were dumb, well, this one is somewhat smarter.