Arts Review, The Arts
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When the hot comic actor Seth Rogen and his buddy and co-writer Evan Goldberg (along with Jason Stone and Jay Baruchel) released a trailer on YouTube for a film called Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse, it got over 50,000 hits in two weeks. That was in 2007; now, nearly six years later, the project, bought long since by Sony, has morphed into the blockbuster feature This Is The End.
A lot of Rogen and Baruchel’s celeb friends were keen to appear in this highly anticipated anarchical comedy. Showing up at various points are: Jason Segel, Rihanna, Channing Tatum and Paul Rudd and the Backstreet Boys. If that doesn’t make for a great opening weekend at the box office, I can’t imagine what could do the trick.
Big fat comedies; end of the world; sci-fi meets slapstick and schtick
Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles to spend time with his old Canadian pal, Seth Rogen. They hang out together for an afternoon but by the evening, Rogen wants them to go to James Franco’s housewarming party. Baruchel reluctantly agrees to go; he thinks Franco and his pals are all phonies who don’t like him.
It’s all decadence and debauchery at Franco’s party with Michael Cera leading the way sexually. Having had enough, Baruchel decides to go to a convenience store to get smokes with Rogen accompanying him. Suddenly, the earth starts shaking; it’s an earthquake with a plus. Beams of blue light surround some people, who are hauled away, sky bound.
Rogen and Baruchel race back to Franco’s house as absolute anarchy ensues. Cars smash into each other; people are screaming everywhere.
Everywhere except James Franco’s house, where no beams of light have appeared. Rogen and Baruchel look foolish, trying to explain to the partying crowd what’s happening outside when a quake starts devastating the area. The Hollywood celebrities race out of the house just as a huge quake breaks apart the ground in Franco’s front yard. Cera, Rihanna and lots of others fall to their death in the huge chasm that opens up.
Franco, Rogen, Baruchel along with Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill beat a hasty retreat to the house. As the Hollywood Hills burn and crazed creatures are let loose on the Earth, the five comic actors barricade James Franco’s doors and wait to be rescued. The next morning, Danny McBride, who crashed the party and fell asleep in a bathtub, wakes up and makes a huge breakfast for all of them, wrecking plans to carefully hoard the provisions.
As the days pass, tension builds among the six survivors. Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel argue about their friendship a lot. Everyone dislikes McBride. Still, they get together to make a home video sequel to Pineapple Express, a hit comedy that featured most of them. And they make lots of gross but funny jokes.
Emma Watson, who had been at the party, breaks through the barricade, fights with the lads, and flees, taking most of their provisions. Soon afterward, McBride is thrown out of the house, after he almost drains the water supply.
Jay Baruchel has a revelation: this is the Apocalypse. The blue light took the good people to heaven and the rest of humanity has been left to survive among the demons that are now roaming the Earth. Everyone disagrees but it turns out that Baruchel is right. A demon possesses Jonah Hill. Devil dogs attack Baruchel and Robinson but they escape. Eventually, Franco’s house burns down and the remaining quartet has to face the reality of demons, burning hills and cannibals. Only one way out is left. If they can become truly decent, perhaps the blue light will come and take them to heaven.
Will they go skyward or go completely downhill?
At the beginning of the film, a photo journalist who is pursuing Rogen at the airport where he’s gone to pick up Baruchel yells, “Are you ever going to be play anyone but yourself?”
The irony in this film is that everyone is playing a variation on their public personas: Franco, the conceited star; Hill, the striving comic: McBride, the boor; Robinson, the cool, nice African-American buddy; Baruchel, the grumpy, truthful Canadian and Rogen, the eternally smiling friend to all of them. They all play their parts well, of course, but only Franco truly sends up his own character—intermittently.
Meta-concerns apart, the comic timing of all of them is fine. This is often a very funny film.
The creative team
Rogen and Goldberg have created a comedy blockbuster, with great cheesy B-movie sci-fi effects and lots of silly dialogue. If there’s a problem with the film, it’s in the very long second act when all of the main actors are stuck in James Franco’s house. Not enough happens for far too long.
And no one will ever accuse Rogen and Goldberg of being subtle. This is a big, gross film. But it is funny, especially for the first 30 minutes. And that’s not easy to do.
Could This is the End have been a great film? Possibly. If there had been more going on once the gang was trapped in the house, that would have been helpful. And there’s much more that could be done with the irony of everyone playing versions of themselves.
But the bottom line is this. Rude, crude and reckless, it might be, but This is the End is laugh out loud funny a good deal of the time. Unless you only go for sophisticated comedies, this is a film that is worth catching in theatres this summer.