This Is The End is a strange beast. Definitely funny enough to be worth seeing, it still suffers from the kind of over-indulgence that can plague this kind of project – one that could easily be labelled ‘vanity’.
So, the story. Jay Baruchel comes to LA to spend time with his old friend Seth Rogan (yes – everyone is playing themselves). Jay feels like he and his buddy have been drifting apart since Rogan started making it big so is giving the friendship one last shot before writing it off. His plans are ruined when Seth wants to go to James Franco’s housewarming. Jay’s wary of all the fake new Hollywood friends and fears Rogan will hang with them rather than him. When his fears start to become reality he heads out to buy some cigarettes. Rogan catches him on the way out and they go together. While at the store, the Rapture begins, featuring an earthquake and those who have lived good lives being beamed up into heaven. Rogan misses the latter and so can’t corroborate Jay’s story when they get back to Franco’s, making him sound crazy and further setting him apart from all of Franco’s friends.
Things unfold and we’re left with a gang of 6 (Rogan, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride, plus a short cameo from Emma Watson) holed up in Franco’s house as the world outside burns.
There are a couple of questions that come out of all this, the first of which I have already answered to an extent – is it funny? Yes, it is. It has more than enough laugh-out-loud moments to justify seeing the film. The second question is whether or not it can justify using the actors to play themselves, and this is a much greyer area. There are two moments which justify this, and both are cameos rather than featuring members of the central cast. The coked-up, self-centred version of Michael Cera is very funny indeed, but the stand-out is Emma Watson, playing her role completely straight and proving herself to be much funnier than the men surrounding her.
Outside of those two, though, I’m not sure the conceit really offers much to the film. With a bit of tweaking, the same script would have worked just as well (if not better) with actors playing roles rather than themselves. Because they’re not quite famous enough for us to know much about their lives outside of their films, they end up with only minor riffs on what’s gone before. The funniest moments for the group are around simple arguments over the passing around of a loaded gun or Danny McBride’s usage of one of Franco’s magazines. These riffs could be done with any characters in any circumstances rather than springing organically from the characters and situations specifically in this movie. Compare, for example, the humour in Shaun of the Dead, where almost every joke comes about specifically because of the characters involved. It’s almost as if the ‘playing themselves’ conceit came about because it made it easier than having to create actual characters for everyone to play.
When the script falls back on either pot-smoking or dick jokes it tends to fall a bit flat as these have been done better in plenty of other places. It’s as though these are a safety net to rely on when there’s nothing to carry the story through to the next plot point.
Finally, I am always wary when a comedy film uses expensive special effects. Yes, they are justified in some cutaways to seeing LA burn, but the biggest effects are saved for a giant devil character roaming the streets, giant penis freely swinging around, which seems to be a fairly large waste of money.
All of that said, I will reiterate that this is still a funny film and worth your time.
Running Time: 1hr 47mins – Feels Like: 1hr 47mins