Review: This Is The End


This Is The End Still PhotoIt's the end of the world as we know it, and at what more fitting location than a drug-and-booze-filled housewarming at James Franco's fortress in the Hollywood Hills would the damned be found? Based on their original short film, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, writers Jason Stone, Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen expand on how Rogen and pal Jay Baruchel -- playing characters named Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel -- come to terms with one another during the Apocalypse in the bromantic comedy, This Is the End. Only this time, they are holed up and trying to survive on the last Milky Way and crackers with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, while also dealing with the likes of Danny McBride and Emma Stone (all also playing "themselves").

You don't have to be a fan of these celebrities to enjoy this scary rollercoaster ride, but you do need a strong constitution for the explosions of profanity, nudity, gore and bodily fluids. With that said, I found This is the End to be a sidesplitting raunchy ensemble piece that draws strength from a cornucopia of humor ranging from immature to witty self-referential, as well as razor-sharp timing of physical jokes.

This Is the End begins with a simple premise -- in Los Angeles for a visit, Jay just wants to hang out with pal Seth at his place, playing games and smoking weed like old times. However, Seth insists on meeting up with his new group of pals including James, Jonah and Craig. Jay reluctantly goes to the party full of celebrities, which includes a coke-infused, butt-slapping Michael Cera, as well as Mindy Kaling, Emma Stone, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and many other familiar faces from the big screen and comedy stage.

While taking a break from the party to get cigarettes from a nearby convenience store, Jay and Seth witness spectacular events as people disappear into the sky. They race back to James's place to take refuge from the ensuing fireballs from the sky and chasms opening in the surrounding landscape. The question remains whether they are safer inside when food and water is scarce, and will they be redeemed and saved or perish in hell on earth?

The over-the-top performances and interactions of the ensemble cast of This Is the End are superb and engaging. Despite Baruchel and Rogen playing the key characters, Hill and Robinson both steal the scenes frequently. I found the onscreen reunion of the stars of Pineapple Express to be much more entertaining than the referenced film. The writers took liberties with each actor's personality that were amplified or distorted. Baruchel's moodiness can be trying at times, but it's balanced out by the mix of the loveable funny Robinson and the fearful Rogen. Franco's collection of props and other memorabilia from his own films as well as his art is a wellspring of humor.

The set design and cinematography break the fourth wall even further for the audience with the sensation that you are witnessing the last days for this group of comedic celebs. Franco's video confessionals -- made with the camera he kept from 127 Hours -- enhance the experience as well as the no-budget sequel to Pineapple Express that the group makes to pass the time until they are rescued. Comparisons can easily be made between This Is The End and cult favorites such as The Exorcist, Road Warrior, Scary Movie and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut but the true heart of the story is the bromance between Rogen and Baruchel.

Digital and special effects by Modus FX are effective, allowing for viewers' suspension of disbelief, whether it's fire and brimstone or demons and hell-hounds that walk the earth. I noticed special effects master Greg Nicotero credited in the film, although oddly I can find no online references to him. The score of This Is the End is quite fitting as is the song selection, from foreshadowing with Blondie's "Step Into A World (Rapture's Delight)" to plenty of Black Sabbath including "The End of The Beginning."

If there's one take-home message of This Is the End, it's that you don't want to be left behind with Danny McBride during the rapture. McBride's portrayal is utterly disturbing yet morbidly fascinating as someone without compassion for his fellow man. In a close second is Jonah Hill as the overly understanding mediator who creeps his fellow survivors out -- until something even more frightening overcomes Hill while he sleeps. Yet Hill is still not as disturbing as the manner in which McBride demonstrates his disrespect of Franco and other survivors .... including Channing Tatum in a wickedly funny cameo appearance.