Directed By: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen
Tag line: "Nothing ruins a party like the end of the world"
Trivia: According to Seth Rogen about 50% of the movie was ad libbed
Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who also co-directed the film), 2013’s This is the End is an often irreverent, occasionally gross, and downright hilarious look at what happens when a Hollywood party is interrupted by the end of the world.
Jay Baruchel has just arrived in Los Angeles to spend a few days with his best friend, Seth Rogen. Following an afternoon of getting high and watching 3-D television, Seth suggests they swing by James Franco’s house to check out his party, which, with celebrities like Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Rihanna, and Michael Cera in attendance, promises to be the hottest shindig in town. When Jay and Seth break away from the party to pick up some supplies at a convenience store, they find themselves smack dab in the middle of something truly amazing. At first, they think it’s an earthquake (it begins with the ground shaking), but when Jay sees dozens of people enveloped by a beam of light and then drawn up into the sky, he realizes something much more intense is taking place. The two rush back to James Franco’s house, arriving in time to see a huge sinkhole open up in the front yard, into which a bunch of celebrities plummet to their death. With chaos breaking out all around them, the stars that remain: Jay, Seth, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, barricade themselves inside the house, hoping someone will come to rescue them. But when Jay reads a few passages from the bible, particularly the Book of Revelations, he’s convinced that the Apocalypse is upon them, and if they don’t change their ways in a hurry, they’ll all be spending eternity in hell.
Practically every actor in This is the End plays him or herself, and many of the laughs come at their expense (when Seth Rogen is picking Jay up at the airport, he’s recognized by a guy carrying a video camera, who asks him why he’s the exact same character in every movie). For comic effect, the star’s personalities have been exaggerated; in his brief appearance, Michael Cera is portrayed as an out-of-control cocaine fiend, while Jonah Hill may be the nicest guy ever to walk the earth. Still, having these stars play themselves was a stroke of genius, and enhances the comedy in just about every situation (in my favorite scene, James Franco and Danny McBride get into an argument over a porno magazine).
Yet what really impressed me was how seriously This is the End takes its central story. When the lead characters aren’t cracking jokes or fighting amongst themselves, they’re dealing with a truly frightening situation: the end of days, and while most of the film is played for laughs, those moments when the evil lurking outside makes its presence known are very effective (there are even a few jump scares tossed in for good measure). With actors like Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Jonah Hill, it’s no surprise that This is the End is a funny movie. But the fact it occasionally delves into horrific territory, and does so very well, is something I wasn’t expecting.