6/20/2013 — Seth Rogen and James Franco play Seth Rogen and James Franco in This Is The End, a movie about what it’s like to spend the apocalypse with Seth Rogen and James Franco.
Meta and a little name-droppy — that’s what it’s like.
Seth Rogen picks up his buddy Jay Baruchel (an actual real-life friend who costarred in the TV show Undeclared with Rogen) at the airport in Los Angeles. Jay is reluctantly in L.A. for a visit with Rogen, who is trying to help his friend make the best of it by providing him with Carl’s Jr., weed, video games and other amusements. But Jay is uneasy, particularly when Seth tells him that James Franco is having a party and Seth wants them to go. Jay wants no part of this. He doesn’t really know Franco or some of Seth’s other friends who will be at the party, like Craig Robinson, and the ones he does know, like Jonah Hill, he doesn’t particularly like. After several uneasy hours of making small talk with Emma Watson and Mindy Kaling and trying to avoid crazy party-animal Michael Cera, Jay asks Seth to walk with him to get some cigarettes. While at the convenience store, though, they go from arguing about whether or not Jay is making an effort with Seth’s new friends to dodging bits of ceiling debris and out-of-control cars. All that shaking ground, all those explosions, it’s an earthquake, Seth guesses as the guys run back to James Franco’s house. No, Jay says, blue beams of light just sucked people (some people) away; this is something much worse.
At first the party at Franco’s house doesn’t believe Jay, but then there’s more shaking, the earth cracks open to reveal a lava-filled pit and Michael Cera is impaled by a light post. After several people — Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd — meet grisly deaths, a few of the party-goers manage to rush back inside. Soon, it’s Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Seth and Jay, huddling in terror from the fire storms and chaos outside, safe-ish due to Franco’s earthquake-proof house. In the morning, a new terror greets them: Danny McBride, who was passed out in the bathtub, has awakened.
It occurs to me that This Is The End isn’t much different from, say, The Hangover Part III: ridiculous things happen, people behave absurdly, some 28 percent of the dialogue is just guys saying “oh, F” and engaging in stoner-humor chatter. I couldn’t stand the The Hangover movies. I would totally watch this one again. And while I’d like to say that this movie is intrinsically smarter than that one, that the comedy is somehow sharper, I don’t really know that that’s true. This Is The End is pretty dumb — but, somehow, it’s fun dumbness. I chuckled.
In the beginning, the movie gets most of its laughs from making fun of itself: Franco’s weird obsession with Rogen, Jason Segal explaining his How I Met Your Mother character, Emma Watson calling Jay a hipster, Michael Cera (that darling of hipster emo-ness) being a massive tool. As the end of the world unfolds, some of the humor comes from parodies of disaster movies and the like — a good example being the clip of a possessed Jonah Hill and his “oh, does the power of Christ compel me? Guess what, it’s not that compelling.” This is not finely constructed, brilliantly written comedy. But somehow, even in its dumbest moments — everything with Danny McBride for example — the goofiness of This Is The End is enjoyable. Franco, Seth and Jay, who act as the core trio, have good buddy-chemistry. And, as they deal with things like water shortages and demons walking the Earth, they also deal with friendship stuff (Seth pulled between his Hollywood friends led by Franco and his childhood friends represented by Jay) that in a way that gets at genuine emotion in somewhat the same way Superbad did (which, like this movie, was also written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg). B
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence. Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (from a short called Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse by Jason Stone), This Is The End is an hour and 47 minutes long and distributed by Sony Pictures.