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Review: "This Is the End"

by Photo of Scott Davis

Seth Rogen and company’s newest film, “This Is the End,” is an apocalyptic joy

Review:

In this article…

This Is the End, directed by Seth Rogen and writing partner, Evan Goldberg, is an expanded-upon version of one of their old shorts, Seth and Jay Versus the Apocalypse. The story of a biblical apocalypse coming over the earth is simply translated onto a bigger screen with bigger names and a bigger budget.

The story begins with Jay Baruchel (playing himself) visiting Seth Rogen (playing himself) for some old-fashioned bro-time in Los Angeles. After a day of smoking pot, playing video games, and goofing around, Seth drags Jay, somewhat unwillingly, to James Franco's house for a party. In the midst of the bash, a fiery hole, caused by a storm of sorts, opens up in Franco's front-yard, gobbling up a bevy of attendees, while the Hollywood hills catch fire as pedestrians are sucked up into the sky. The remaining survivors at Franco's house are Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride (all, of course, playing themselves). They board up the house and try to wait out the apocalypse (which, as theorized by Jay, is the Book of Revelations coming to life), surviving on the limited supplies in Franco's new-age mansion.

The party begins the film with great momentum, hilariously showing a handful of actors and big names as themselves - Craig Robinson, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna playfully sing a group song on the piano; Emma Watson calls Jay a "hipster" - while also exposing others as different personalities from their usual on-screen forays. Michael Cera shines, if only briefly, as a cocaine-addicted sex fiend; Jonah Hill (who Jay is not at all fond of) is overly nice to the point of patronization. Jay lets it be known that he's not a fan of Seth's new Hollywood friends, but it doesn't stop the fun. The party itself is joyous enough that the actual plot of the movie could have turned the momentum for the worse. But it doesn't.

As we've come to expect from this troupe, their movies allow the audience to simply hang out with them, to get inside on their gags, quick-witted goofs and borderline homosexual lust. The whole act, while not original or sparse these days, is endearing. A few of the actors have proven to be capable performers in other settings - Hill in Money Ball, Rogen in 50/50, Franco in Spiderman 3 127 Hours - and while This Is the End certainly doesn't offer anything in ground-breaking performances, it does show a level of both talent and restraint from the group. Holed up with the same six guys for an hour-and-a-half could get exhausting, but they all pull it off without tiring out the operation.

When the laughs start coming in this one, they keep coming, seemingly gathering steam as the movie progresses. McBride, whose brash personality can become wearing, shines as he's introduced in his usual, exaggerated, cocky way, entering the film with a montage of him getting high and cooking breakfast while nearly depletng all of the survivors' supplies. Later, in one of the film's best scenes, he and Franco angrily debate the ethics of pleasuring oneself in another's house. Craig Robinson, usually a side-act in most films, also has a break-out of sorts, conjuring up laughs with his faux-tough-guy, secretly-soft personality. Franco extends himself a bit, portraying himself as somewhat self-involved as the biggest name actor in the group, while also revealing a soft side, in particular, for Rogen, whose name is painted on a canvas next to Franco's in the mansion. Rogen himself, of course, plays his usual lovable stoner. With time, he's also added a comical, effeminate personality, seen in this movie as he runs with his hands in the air, shrieking at anything slightly disturbing, shying away from most conflicts.

The self-parody of This Is the End seems to suggest the group's own recognition of their formulaic success. A reporter in the beginning of the movie tells Rogen he always plays the same character and then asks for the "Seth Rogen laugh." Cera's brief time on screen hints at the obvious criticism of his typecast shy, awkward character by turning it on its head. With all of the time on the group has on their hands, they make a follow-up to Rogen, Franco, and McBride's Pineapple Express, complete with more boyish love for one another and jokes about getting high. In the midst of the apocalypse, as the gang figures out their hellish fates, they all reflect on their less-than-perfect ways of living and how their biggest accomplishments stem simply from acting.

The lowest points in the movie usually come when the actors have to deal with the surrounding situation: the apocalypse, which is, after all, the basis of the movie. Even this is taken with a hint of absurdity, though. Hill quite literally has the spirit of a demon enter him; Robinson trash talks to the demons upon encountering them; the group plays soccer with the head of beheaded man who, a second before his death, was asking for their help. Save for one, loud, surprisingly gripping chase scene, there isn't a whole lot of seriousness about the surrounding end of the world. It requires careful plotting to take a comedy that deals with the crisis lightly and keep it from getting too wrapped up in its own conflict.

In the hands of another group, this could have been a project that fell on its face. It could have been done with epic intentions overtaking the comedy of the story, or the comedy could have simply over-ridden any intention of acknowledging the foe the main characters must face. Rogen and company, however, pay special attention to both, at once making a comedy about dealing with the end of the world while also giving the apocalypse enough attention so that it doesn't fall in the back-drop. It says something about the filmmakers and actors that we can enjoy watching them get high, make low-budget sequels, squabble over food and belongings, while also caring about their fate at the end of the world.

Grade: A-

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