Early on in This is the End, a paparazzo asks Seth Rogen why he plays the same character every time. His characters from Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, and even his first gig on Freaks and Geeks seem easily interchangeable. Since everyone already thinks he plays himself in every movie, Seth went ahead and co-wrote a script with himself as the main character…playing himself.
Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, and Danny McBride lead a cast where everyone plays themselves. Even Michael Cera shows up as Michael Cera although I hope he is having a bit of fun with his ‘character’. This end of the world comedy answers that one question you always ask during disaster movies, “What would a house full of movie stars do in this situation?”
James Franco is hosting a party for a few Hollywood A-listers (Rihanna) and even a few ‘I remember that guy’ types such as Martin Starr when all hell, literally, breaks loose. Did southern California finally get the monster earthquake everyone expects? Is it an alien invasion? Everyone has their guess, but the handful of survivors left in the house must now stop being nice to one another and get real.
Franco, Rogen, and company have limited water, food, and hobbies that will keep them from annoying the hell out of each other. Some distractions are first-person confessionals to a video camera, an amateur version of Pineapple Express 2, and dangerous adventures outside the house to secure more provisions. The video one-on-ones provide a reality show format and even spawns some alliances between some members. They may even resort to voting each other off the island.
Co-writers and co-directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg also co-wrote Superbad (2007) which makes it all the more amusing to cast Cera, Superbad’s innocent Mr. Nice Guy, as the most coke-addled psychopath in Hollywood. Another Hollywood twist is James Franco’s house. Almost 100% concrete inside and out, this ultimate bachelor pad conveniently transforms into a fortress protecting the vulnerable movie stars from the blazing fires and monstrosities lurking outside. More than once, our heroes cry out that these bad things should not be happening to them; they bring joy to people’s lives for crying out loud!
Unfortunately, their jokes and vulgar shenanigans begin to wear thin. Once the novelty of famous guys playing themselves wears off, there is not much else left to stand on. Where Superbad is outrageously hysterical, This is the End garners only the occasional ha-ha moment; except for an extremely vulgar fight between Franco and McBride concerning the correct protocol on self-pleasure in a claustrophobic house of dudes. The actors get in spat after spat with one another and throw jabs about their respective careers, some of which could be commentary straight out of gossip magazines.
Just when I thought all was lost, though, comes one of the greatest endings of the year. I will give nothing away, but if you are start feeling the movie wear out its welcome and notice you are not laughing as much as you thought you would, please stick it out until the very end; I promise you it is worth it. Even though the ending deserves all the credit in the world, it is still not strong enough for me to recommend the movie. There is way too much repetition with all of the verbal infighting and housemate intrigue that the cast succeeds not only in annoying each other, but the audience as well.
Directed by: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Jason Segal