With a host of celebrities all playing themselves during the apocalypse (which begins halfway through a party at James Franco‘s house) This is the End is the kind of big dumb summer comedy you can loose yourself in for a couple of hours. The concept runs out of gas before co-writers and co-directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen run out of film, and the movie is stuck with an unnecessary DreamWorks’ style dance number to end things, but there are certainly some fun moments to be had over its 107-minute running time.
The film begins with Seth Rogen welcoming his longtime friend Jay Baruchel to Los Angeles before dragging him to a party at James Franco’s house which is full of LA people Baruchel can’t stand. While escaping the party for cigarettes the pair get their first signs of something be seriously wrong when several people are pulled up into the heavens by a mysterious blue light while others are left to deal with the giant sinkholes, earthquakes, and fires that begin erupting all over the city. Eventually the wanton destruction leaves only a handful of the partygoers alive in Franco’s house.
The main cast comprises Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride. Over the course of the film, particularly during the opening party, we also get several other celebrities playing themselves including Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Rihanna, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, and others. The two, however, who really stand-out are Michael Cera (playing an incredibly dickish version of himself) and Emma Watson (who steals the entire movie as another survivor who won’t take any crap, especially from this group of doofuses).
Each of the cast plays an exaggerated version of himself, with the exception of Rogen who is basically cast as the film’s beloved everyman (and so comes off the most bland). If the film has one major flaw (other than its overuse of dick jokes) it’s that none of the selfish characters are all that likable, or worth rooting for. However, it is fun to see so many celebrities meet gruesome ends and in a movie about the apocalypse we certainly aren’t expecting everyone to make it out alive.
I was surprised to see This is the End had some impressive CGI on its (relatively) meager budget, especially with the creatures the characters encounter wandering through the desolated landscape that was once the Hollywood Hills. The money is certainly well spent. I’m not sure how well the movie will stand-up to multiple viewings, as even in a single viewing the celebrity self-mockery got a bit old, and several of the jokes work primarily for their initial shock value. It’s also worth noting that from all of the jokes land with the kind of impact Rogen and Goldberg were hoping for. However, when This is the End is funny it’s often very funny.