The apocalypse has been showing up with greater frequency in film as of late. And though the apocalypse is quite literal in This Is the End, this comedy may also signal the end of the creative road for the kind of raunchy, Judd Apatow school of bromantic comedy that has dominated screens in recent years. Amid its celebration of weed, self-absorption and phallocentric humor, This Is the End seeks redemption for its characters.
Written and directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (the team behind Superbad and Pineapple Express), this is both a laugh fest and a disaster movie. Mixed with the vulgar humor are images of giant sinkholes to hell and satanic beasts with huge penises. The film is frequently hilarious, but it's also overindulgent, extremely self-referential and too long by at least 15 minutes.
The story is premised on the idea that these actors are playing themselves. Jay Baruchel is visiting his old Canadian pal Seth Rogen in L.A., and Rogen suggests they go to a party at James Franco's house. Baruchel, expressing his dislike of Hollywood pretense and phoniness, doesn't want to go, but Rogen convinces him to come along. Franco is showing off his new home, and the party is populated by a who's who of young Hollywood talent.
Some of these celebrities are crazier versions of themselves, and others are quite the opposite. Craig Robinson, wearing a T-shirt that reads "Take Yo' Panties Off," sings a song about just that to Rihanna, who's singing along. In another corner, Michael Cera, playing against type, is snorting scads of coke and behaving like an asshole. Then the apocalypse arrives and a giant sinkhole opens up outside Franco's front door.
Barricading themselves inside Franco's fortress-like dwelling, the characters go into survival mode. Soon, Danny McBride joins them, squandering their food and water while spreading his semen all over the house and causing a very funny shouting match over where it's acceptable to leave one's man juice. Emma Watson breaks in and becomes fodder for a rape joke that's surprisingly funny but, like most sequences in the film, goes on too long. To pass the time, the guys shoot a sequel to Pineapple Express.
Maybe it has something to do with Jewish writers riffing on the apocalypse, but This Is the End doesn't really know how to end. Once circumstances force the characters to flee Franco's compound, the idea of redemption suddenly crosses their minds. Unfortunately, self-sacrificing acts of kindness are not their forte. But somehow, despite the questionable comedy strategy and messy approach to storycraft, much of this film is wildly entertaining.