By: Paul Zecharia | www.stonesdetroit.com
Throughout the years, several films about apocalypses and post-apocalyptic worlds have been made. In these films, we see the struggles of normal people having to survive through tough situations in a dark environment. It’s often very serious and depressing. But have we ever once stopped and asked ourselves “What are celebrities doing during the apocalypse?” This Is the End answers that question with a fictionalized approach. And to make it more interesting, it’s a comedy. Not just any comedy; we have Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writers of Superbad, to do the job. This Is the End is actually based on a short film called Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse, written by Rogen and Golberg in 2007. In their feature debut with Rogen co-starring, This Is the End proves to be an outstandingly hilarious apocalyptic comedy featuring an all-star cast starring as fictionalized versions of themselves as well as several celebrity cameos. Every major comedy actor you can think of (from the world of Judd Apatow, at least) is in this film. It’s almost like the comedic version of The Expendables that we have been waiting for. This has everything you would expect from Apatow/Rogen-esque comedy but with all the zaniness and imagination of the world coming to an end. Surprisingly, Apatow had nothing to do with this film.
So Seth Rogen is picking up is good friend and actor Jay Baruchel at the airport for a weekend of fun in Los Angeles. However, Jay becomes incredibly reluctant when Seth takes him to a party at the new house of James Franco, where they are joined by their friends Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson. There are also several celebrity cameos including Jason Segel, David Krumholtz, Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Watson, and a very outrageous Michael Cera. But as the night goes on, beams of blue light come out of the sky and start carrying away several people. A powerful earthquake sets Hollywood on fire and a large crack opens up and several celebrities fall to their death. Among the survivors that run back into Franco’s house are Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, and Robinson. They board themselves up in the house to protect themselves and keep track of how much food and water they have, thinking that it’s just a major earthquake and that they’ll be rescued soon. The next morning, a passed out Danny McBride wakes up in the bathroom of Franco’s house and not realizing what has happened. From here on out, it’s all the bickering, joking, and self-deprecation between these six celebrities that you would expect. They also eat, drink, do drugs, and even shoot a sequel to Pineapple Express. However, Baruchel starts speculating that this could be the beginning of the Apocalypse, and signs of it are showing.
The real strength to This Is the End is not specifically the comedy, but the energy of the comedy and its actors. It goes the extra mile to amuse audiences with whatever jokes and scenarios they are willing to throw at us. It’s an epic self-parody, to say the least. The six main actors know they are making fun of themselves and they have a ball with it. We have Jay Baruchel, whose image has pretty much been a skinny and awkward fellow in most of his films. But the self-awareness of his “character” in This Is the End is a plot device that drives him into feeling uncomfortable around Seth Rogen’s friends. Rogen is still the typical bumbling and good-natured goofball, and even he knows it. There’s a funny meta moment at the beginning where he escorts Baruchel out of the airport and a reporter comes up to him and says “Why do you always play the same character in every movie?” Oscar-nominee Franco, who has proven to have the most range based on the amount of projects we’ve seen him in so far this year (Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers), is at his basic natural hilarity. Next to him is Hill, another Oscar-nominee, who plays the whole easy-going nice guy with a touch of creepiness. Robinson is a wild and lovable party freak who is always at his best at being naturally funny, and his performance here is no exception. And McBride is probably at his most outrageous at creating the most tension between him and the rest of guys, even leading up to a hilarious argument between him and Franco about masturbation.
Several other comedic highlights come from two of the biggest cameos…or maybe co-stars, since they are billed after the six leads. One of them is Michael Cera, who hasn’t been in a major film since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010 (but you can catch him on the fourth season of “Arrested Development” now available on Netflix). Cera has been known as a one-note actor; the awkward teenager. But in This Is the End, Rogen and Golberg decided to go the extra mile and turn his character into the complete opposite of what audiences expect. He is now an outrageously drunk and wild party animal. He slaps Rihanna’s butt, blows cocaine on Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and is even shown getting a blow-job from two hot chicks. His bare buttocks is shown and there seems to be no shame. But for the purpose of parodying Michael Cera, it was all worth it. The other set of hilarious moments involving a celebrity is Emma Watson. It’s so very odd to see this one needle of the Harry Potter world in a see of raunchy comedy. In the middle of the film, Watson breaks into Franco’s and the guys allow her to take shelter there, which leads to an inevitable conversation involving a possible rape vide with the whole “six guys, one girl” scenario. Watson ends up hitting Rogen in the face with an axe and forces them to hand over all their food and water. This essentially leads to, in my opinion, the funniest line in the whole film delivered by McBride via camcorder: “Hermione just stole all our sh*t.”
Besides This Is the End being an all-out parody of the actors, it also utilizes the essence of parodying and paying homage several apocalyptic and catastrophic elements. Films like Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby are referenced to make for oddball scenes when the guys are trying to figure out ways to survive the apocalypse. These parodies are handled in the way that the Scary Movie franchise, as well as their other knockoffs, should be handling it. Because there are funny jokes made about the actors by the actors in shamelessly self-deprecating ways. They even make references to their own films, like when McBride calls out Rogen for not giving decent performances in his last six films (notably The Green Hornet) and how Hill should be a better performer due to his being an “Oscar-nominated person.” The film manages to be funny and crazy while also throwing in some character there. Baruchel questions Rogen’s loyalty, everybody questions McBride’s antic, the audience questions Hill’s motivations, the list goes on. Seeing how This Is the End had a $32 million budget, the special effects look cheesy, but surprisingly acceptable for an apocalyptic comedy. We get some monstrously-designed creatures and an orange blaze that is seen for most of the film.
So while the premise for This Is the End does some rather ridiculous, the filmmakers know that. It’s almost as if Seth Rogen and the rest of the gang sat around, got high, and came up with scenarios about what they would do if the world were coming to an end. These gags and jokes work because there is a strong sense of comedic energy mixed with supernatural and horror elements to make everything seem big. It has a wild imagination, and I greatly appreciate that. The backdrop of Franco’s house is also a good setting due to the many artifacts and items used for comedic pleasure. Why? Because six guys stationed in one setting is a great idea for comedy. There are even two more big cameos which I will not give away here, but needless to say, there are completely unexpected and piss-your-pants hilarious. And that is the best world to sum up this film: hilarious. Is it tasteless and obnoxious? You bet. But does it do its job of being downright funny? Absolutely. Ever actor, whether lead or cameo, has their moment. If you think This Is the End was a bad idea and actually very unfunny, I understand. But you know what? It did not disappoint me. It is, by far, the funniest comedy of 2013.
Four and a half out of five stars.
This Is the End is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
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