Seth Rogen and Evan Golderg have, in the last few years, perfected the stoner genre. Films like Knocked Up, Superbad and of course, Pineapple Express stand as the best most recent examples of the stoner comedy; films built on wacky, out-there set-pieces and hazy comedic scenarios propped up by casual drug use. These films tend to feature the same general frat pack of actors and the latest offering, This is the End, is no different. An apocalyptic stoner comedy, This is the End doesn’t really do anything new, but it certainly makes for a fun, if mindless, couple of hours in the cinema.
The film follows Jay Baruchel, visiting pal Seth Rogen in LA. The two decide to swing over to James Franco’s mansion for a party, meeting fellow actors Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and later, Danny McBride, as well as a host of other Hollywood celebrities. Unfortunately, the party reaches an abrupt end when things get slightly apocalypse-heavy, and the core group are left fending for their lives in Franco’s fortress. With little food and overly crammed living conditions, the situation becomes increasingly desperate as the group try to save themselves from the mysterious and evil forces lurking outside.
The film’s primary gimmick and its biggest draw is that the cast play themselves, or at least exaggerated versions of themselves. This allows the cast to have a lot of fun together. The group are clearly all good friends in real life and This is the End is not-unlike leaving a group of drunk pals locked together with a video camera – it makes for a lot of laughs. The group have fantastic chemistry and essentially keep a one-joke movie running – try This is the End with the cast of say, Grown Ups, and it would be an absolute disaster. All of the cast play themselves with a witty, self-deprecating style – think Extras – with James Franco mocking his art-loving, chilled public image, Jonah Hill’s worryingly nice guy persona, and McBride working almost as the villain, playing an extension of the sort of gruff man-child he usually plays in these movies. The group have great fun at each other’s expense and the expense of themselves and the film derives most of its comedy from their on-screen banter, as the group clearly know each other’s filmographies inside out and get a lot of mileage out of past career decisions. Fans of these actors will have a great time.
This is the End also knows how to work a cameo – with appearances from Rihanna, Emma Watson, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd – all having a lot of fun playing twisted versions of themselves. It’s Michael Cera who steals the show however, playing off-type as a cocaine-addicted, threesome having arsehole who gets some hilarious lines, as well as the film’s most OTT death scene. There’s also a fantastic reveal beneath a gimp mask towards the end and End reunites the cast of Superbad in a fan-pleasing moment.
This is an incredibly silly, over-the-top film, and it’s easy to see how it was pitched – you can easily imagine the baked conversations which spawned This is the End – ‘like, what if the world were to end…right now?! what would we do?’ – but its a concept which allows the director and cast to have a lot of fun. The film’s first big set-piece, which kills a fair-few famous faces, its hilarious in its macabre ridiculousness and the film goes on to generate a lot of comedy simply by locking the surviving cast together in a house. There’s some great moments – an extended wanking gag, a debate over a Milky-Way, a fun, meta-version of Pineapple Express 2 and a parody of The Exorcist – everything is extremely silly, but we’re sold by the sheer chemistry and likeability of the cast. Jay Baruchel serves as the straight centre and his requisite bromance with Seth Rogen forms the heart of the movie, and everyone else is utterly on top-form. There’s plenty of dick-jokes of course and the film isn’t perfect – it’s funnier towards the beginning and has a weird sense of pacing, seemingly made of up of random set-pieces and sketches, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the film appeals to those with a less-than-coherent mindset anyway. And in some cases, the film is surprisingly impressive outside of its comedy elements – the apocalypse here is well designed and inventive with some great monsters, and the sense of scale towards the end is impressive.
This is a stupid, but likeable out-there comedy and a lot of fun to watch. The sort of movie made to watch with a few friends and a few beers and for what it is, it’s well made and very funny. Some of the jokes do fall flat, but a lot hit home, and This is the End serves as an apocalyptic spiritual successor to Pineapple Express – your view of that movie will determine largely your view of this one. For a film many thought would simply be a placeholder until Edger Wright’s The World’s End next month, This is the End proves to be a fun, silly stoner movie and an enjoyably daft time at the cinema. It’s nothing audiences haven’t seen before, but that’s not always so bad when everyone’s having so much fun.