This Is the End. It certainly goes down a fresh route, having celebrities star as themselves in an end of the world story. It could be self-indulgent, it could be really dumb, but it isn't. It's one of the funniest movies I've seen in years. Oh, and it is dumb.
Having not seen his friend in over a year, Jay Baruchel flies to Los Angeles to visit Seth Rogen, looking forward to catch up and just hang out. They do just that at first, hanging out, getting high and playing video games, but eventually they end up at James Franco's housewarming party that's packed to the gills with other celebrities. Jay is less than psyched, not liking most of Seth's other friends, but that's the least of his problems. An earthquake rips apart Los Angeles, a sinkhole tearing apart the Earth in front of Franco's house, more than a few of the celebrities falling to their deaths. Jay, Seth and James are among the few survivors, forting up in Franco's house until help comes in one form or another. What's going on outside? The L.A. hills are covered in fire, and there seems to be no other survivors. Is it the Rapture? The end of the world? A zombie apocalypse? Can the group survive, maybe just avoid killing each other?
I had two trains of thought when I read about this movie in pre-production. It was going to go one of two ways. One, a self-indulgent, really stupid comedy that would be almost painful to watch. Two, a self-indulgent, really stupid comedy that would be amazing to watch. Yeah, thankfully, it ends up being the second. Of course it's self indulgent. It's a bunch of celebrities playing themselves during the apocalypse for goodness sake! It isn't smarmy or condescending in its humor. The goal from directors/writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg (worked previously together on Superbad, The Green Hornet, Pineapple Express) is to have fun and produce a lot of laughs. Judge it, criticize it for any number of reasons, but 'End' is truly entertaining and genuinely hilarious, one laugh on top of another in a 106-minute movie.
Okay, so it's celebrities playing versions of themselves if not spot-on portrayals (I'm assuming). Rogen and Goldberg's script sees all the possibilities and potential and goes to town. Joining Baruchel, Rogen and Franco as the initial survivors are Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride.They all play up those notions we think we know as an audience. Rogen is the stoner slacker, Baruchel the quirky nerd, Franco a still in the closet gay guy, Hill the angelic do-gooder, Robinson the smooth, cool black guy, and McBride as....well, McBride, the asshole friend we all have and tolerate. Rogen, Franco, Robinson and McBride all worked together in Pineapple Express, and in one way or another (film and/or TV), they've all worked with each other. Friends on-screen or off, this is what comedic chemistry should be. It's effortless, six guys just shooting and spitballing and see what sticks. They make it look easy.
Yes, there's plenty of jokes about sex, bodily function in a movie where the tone is not surprisingly pretty goofy to dumb. But mixed in with all those jokes are some moments of brilliance, genuinely smart scenes that had tears rolling down my face. Of the filthier variety is a scene between Franco and McBride that has the duo (drifting apart as friends) screaming back and forth at each other about masturbation. A scene with Harry Potter's Emma Watson is sublime, the six screwballs discussing an issue they have while she can hear just feet away, the payoff an excellent capper with Watson wielding an axe at them. The group also decides to film a homemade sequel to Pineapple Express, much of the cast already there. It's ultra-low budget charm is evident. As well, Franco's penchant for keeping movie props pays off nicely, including his camcorder from 127 Hours and a revolver from Flyboys. That's just some of the more memorable moments from the episodic apocalypse story.
While this group of six dominates screentime, there's a ridiculous amount of other actors/actresses/comedians making appearances as themselves. Michael Cera gets the filthiest part, playing on his clean-cut image and turning himself into a coke-fiend looking to get some action. Also joining him is Superbad co-star Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin) a funny scene with the duo and Hill too. Also look for Mindy Kaling, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Kevin Hart, Martin Starr, David Krumholtz, singer Rihanna and Aziz Ansari. Oh, because that wasn't enough, Channing Tatum also makes a blink and you'll miss it appearance as himself. Like the rest of the movie, it's bizarre and comes out of left field, but like so much else, it just works.
Here's where we sit with another comedy. I could list all the really funny scenes that cracked me up, but then you wouldn't have to see it yourself. I don't want to do that. It's a perfectly funny and smart movie with a ridiculous cast that's having a lot of fun doing what they're doing. It's on display from beginning to end, one of the best, most original comedies to hit theaters in years.
This Is the End (2013): ****/****