This Is The End

This Is The End


Reviewed by: David Graham

A ballsy mix of Eighties-style comedy-horror and celebrity love-in lampoon, on paper This Is The End smacks of nauseating indulgence, but it’s a credit to its neo-frat-pack ensemble that it’s actually a bit of a riot. Of course, if Seth Rogen’s brand of stonerish pop-culture humour doesn’t tickle you then 107 minutes in the company of him and his ‘best buds’ might not sound like a good night out, but at least there’s the surprisingly well-executed horror element to keep viewers on their toes. That Rogen shares joint writing-directing credit with fellow Superbad scribe Evan Goldberg suggests he should think about expanding his act more often: in some ways this is the film Kevin Smith failed to make with the similarly star-studded but mis-judged (although more overtly satirical) Dogma.

Canadian comedy actor Jay Baruchel is paying a visit to old hometown pal Rogen in his plush LA pad, where they spend a blissful day catching up, smoking blunts and playing videogames. When Rogen suggests they check out a party in James Franco’s newly built Beverly Hills mansion, Baruchel struggles to contain his contempt for the LA scene and its denizens, but is co-erced into attending anyway. Finding they’re all still the self-satisfied horrors he thought, Jay leaves at the first opportunity, dragging a reluctant Rogen with him.

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The two are soon running for their lives back towards Franco and co when all manner of apocalyptic mayhem erupts around them, finding their stardom little help against the chaos outside the door.

Treading a fine balance between self-referential smugness and earnest likeability, the core duo of Baruchel and Rogen get things off to a good start, with the same lovingly brutal banter you’d expect from the writers of Superbad. The dynamic of the now fame-weary Rogen and the awkward under-achiever Baruchel (at least that’s how they’re portraying themselves – altruism plays nicely into everything here) makes both of them easy to relate to, while the roster of stars at Franco’s party play knowingly tweaked versions of either themselves or their onscreen personas in ways that both blur lines between the two and take the mickey out of each.

For many, the script may never match these initial scenes of in-joking and cameo-spotting, but they’re arguably a bit too obvious and dragged out a little too long. Would Rihanna really be slumming it with B-list funny people? Does Michael Cera really like toilet-based coke addled three-ways? We all know what celebs are like behind closed doors so for these guys to be sending up their typical Hollywood party lifestyle comes off as something of a self-congratulatory double-bluff. The shenanigans are probably not far from the truth so it strikes as a little too indulgent to be so ironically upfront.

Once everything changes to disaster movie gear, a furious cull of detestable stars will have audiences whooping with delight, especially with the unexpected level of splattery gore accompanying their varied demises. Some of these actors – like the usually scene-stealing but here wasted Aziz Ansari – may be unfamiliar to anyone other than Apatow-hards while the most recognisable – the likes of Jason Segel and Paul Rudd – barely even register, but it’s still a bloody blast to see them obliterated.

The subsequent hole-up is also well-played initially, but after the extended drug skits and masturbation etiquette arguments subside, the middle section feels stretched, much like a serious post-apocalyptic flick. The script remains admirably committed to both its chosen genre and evenly representing its stars in the laugh stakes, but there’s a good 15 minutes that should have been sucked down the sink-hole, including an excruciating ‘rapey’ gag that starts wittily but drags out to disrespectful levels. In spite of this, everyone acquits themselves admirably, with Craig Robinson and Franco proving particular stand-outs as the common guy and the self-righteous art-snob they’re often respectively perceived to be.

Thankfully, the action and the laughs pick up in the final third, with surprisingly intense carnage ensuing – at some points it’s only slightly jokier and probably more effective than The Mist. The group’s ‘sweded’ version of an earlier-mooted sequel is a highlight, nicely tying in with this film’s evolution from fake/prophetic trailer Jay And Seth Vs The Apocalypse, while pleasurably smart/dumb riffs on everything from found-footage confessionals to exorcism horror hit the mark more often than not. The eventual revelation of what’s actually at hand (foreshadowed throughout by some sly musical cues) works out quite nicely for the climax too, wherein there’s an ingenious subversion of the racist offing of the token black character, a horror convention that’s teasingly evoked throughout.

The breathless final stretch takes things to surreal territory that borders on the South Park movie’s level of OTT madness, but the directing duo show real chops at staging spectacularly ridiculous set-pieces and the CGI is actually more impressive than the superficially similar Cabin In The Woods’ finale. There’s a perhaps unavoidable coda that feels deserved despite bringing things back to the sickening back-slapping of the beginning – right down to one last cameo that probably won’t mean much to non-Yanks - but in the end this proves a bumpy ride well worth taking. Hopefully Baruchel’s upcoming comedy-slasher Pig is similarly successful.

Reviewed on: 05 Jul 2013
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This Is The End packshot
A group of celebrities attending a party at James Franco's house are suddenly confronted with the Apocalypse.
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Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Writer: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Emma Watson, Rihanna

Year: 2013

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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