This is the End, Review

Friendship really is magic, even if dick and rape jokes are not...

This Is The End begins how most of Judd Apatow odysseys begin, whether they be about high school, pregnancy or a drug lord adventure: with the story of friends. In this meta-tale, written and directed by frequent collaborators Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg, the focal friendship is between star Seth Rogen (recognized in the airport with the movie’s first line of dialogue) and his old pal Jay Baruchel. Baruchel has not reached the same mainstream success as Rogen and consequently hasn’t fallen in love with the Los Angeles lifestyle. Aiming to change that, Rogen invites Baruchel over to his new place with the intention of welcoming him to the world he has adopted by using drugs, video games and overall friendliness. The duo’s bro bonding time is cut short, however, when Rogen drags Baruchel to a soiree at his other buddy’s house, James Franco. While comedian Mindy Kaling congratulates Baruchel on his work in the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, Baruchel goes largely unrecognized at the shindig, especially by Franco and Jonah Hill. As the party continues, Franco and Hill show that they look up to Rogen while Baruchel feels that such friends have changed Rogen from who he used to be. Baruchel’s discomfort with this shallow group of people is briefly put on pause when the rapture begins. Suddenly, people are being beamed up into the sky or experiencing immediate brutal death by way of Hellfire swallowing up the greater Los Angeles area. A sinkhole develops outside of Franco’s house, causing a highly amusing list of celebrities to fall into the fiery pits of Hell, including most of the Apatow Family Tree. This leaves Baruchel holed up with the few survivors from the party, namely Craig Robinson, Franco, Hill Rogen and eventually Danny McBride. The Hollywood sextet must find a way to survive the unpredictable conditions of the apocalypse with their small rations, egos and competing friendships in tact. A lap around the bases for its cast members, this Apocalyptic Comedy celebrates the established recognition that its stars have with its movie-going audience. This is the End tunes into the personas these actors have created for each other, but adds on top odder elements of caricature for more overt comedic reasons. Even when the film does feel like the dialogue is dictated by a script, it does not seem like Rogen has attempted to warp, stretch or bend his friends too much. Instead, it is like he told them over a weekly smoke session, “Come on, you know everyone thinks you’re a pretentious fucking nerd, James Franco! Heh heh heh. Let’s run with that.”  With this automation comes awareness in which actors from even in the briefest cameos use the film to express to the audience their own understanding of their work (like when Jason Segel explains the type of TV comedy he does to Kevin Hart). Along with this, the film is rife with amusing ball-busting as the actors call each other out for their flops; treating million dollar Hollywood projects like stupid ideas, similar to when someone tries to jump into a pool from the roof. In this regard, Michael Cera’s appearance in the film is the most golden, The divisive star, who has now returned to television with Arrested Development, shows that he can match your four-year old impressions of him being a one-note actor and then play immediately against them. For a comedy based on real life actors who address each other mostly by first and last names (especially James Franco), the jokes of This is the End do not entirely rely on the playful meta aspect. This is not a film of alienating inside jokes, but various potential re-quotables from them to us (with plenty of controlled name-dropping). However, stripped of Danny McBride’s name, would his character still be funny? Yes. But does it help that Danny McBride definitively owns such a character with Danny McBride’s trademark Danny McBride-ness? Yes, yes it does. Like their almighty Apatow’s films, This is the End does lag from the same type of comedic pacing that can make some of the former’s movies feel like an endurance test. Entire conversations that are set around one big joke (such as body cleansing in the beginning), can totally bomb for a solid minute if the punchline doesn’t work. This experience occurs periodically in the movie, specifically with three extended sequences that could have used more balls from Rogen and Goldberg in the editing room. When these characters are often left simply in the house with nothing to do, the slow pacing becomes prominent, despite the nutty situations that the writing/directing duo tries to constantly involve them in. In short: It seems like the era of the dick joke is going limp in its shock value, despite Rogen and Golberg genuinely still thinking a few unexpected penises are worth an Apatow trademark chuckle. Thus, how do Rogen and Goldberg try to achieve that same Superbad level of raunchy humor without dicks? Rape Jokes. This may be too much, even amongst much of the film’s male audience. And without ruining the sequence or whom it involves, an uncomfortable moment centered on potentially raping a woman does indeed make for a slower running time.  Following in the wisdom of Apatow’s creations, a sense of substance is not lost within the fraternal nature of the film. There is a loving sense of friendship throughout the flick, as communicated through how Rogen and Goldberg understand bonding. The presented buddy-ship of Baruchel and Rogen onscreen, with its confrontations and all, feels even more genuine than the other tangible friendships put on display in similar Apatow projects. In this regard, perhaps Rogen and Goldberg have beat Apatow at his own friendly game. At its core, This is the End becomes a loving ode to the element that has given schlubs like Rogen worldwide recognition, while allotting him to act like himself amongst a business of phonies. Rogen’s first hosted movie party celebrates the collaboration he has with his friends, whether or not they are in front of a camera. Thus, the film’s best scene (aside from the apocalyptic chaos in the first act), one that gets to the heart of this script, features a “Sweded” trailer for Pineapple Express 2. It is not so much a self-homage to Rogen and Goldberg’s own movie, but instead a declaration of the creativity that drives these lucky friends—their love for being entertainers separating these Hollywood freaks and geeks from just any other stoners. Den of Geek Rating: 3.5 out of 5


3.5 out of 5