by Matt Smith
More than anything else, the new horror-comedy This is the End is about friendship. Mostly its ugly, backstabbing and resentful side. But amid all of the mean-spirited jokes cracked at the expense of its very stars the film never falters in showing that even with all the fucked up mess that comes from interacting with other human beings and caring about them, it’s really the caring about them that matters. In its own way, it’s a message movie. Weird, right?
The basic premise is that Jay Baruchel is in Los Angeles to hang out with his best bud Seth Rogen. Against his protestations, Seth drags Jay over the James Franco’s housewarming party where anybody and everybody is hanging out: Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, and a list that goes on and on and on. The Apatow crew is all in tow: Jason Segal, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride. Everyone plays themselves through a skewed lens, pointing up certain qualities that we might associate with them because of public perception, or because we are given a glimpse into what they are “really” like.
All of this is, of course, bullshit.
While the party at Franco’s house goes on, the world starts to end. Jay drags Seth out of the house to the corner store and witnesses people being sucked up into the sky by blue beams of light. This makes us think aliens might be the cause, but the real explanation is surprisingly much more biblical. There’s even a few devils with big swingin’ dicks, a motif that has been recurring throughout world cinema lately, including the neon orange devil in Carlos Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux. (And that is the only time you will likely see these two movies mentioned in the same sentence.)
After making their way back to the house and witnessing almost every other celebrity plunge to their deaths in a giant sinkhole, the core group holes up inside and rides out the disaster. Or they try to. Along the way they encounter demons, an ax-wielding Emma Watson, a possessed Jonah Hill, and … well, their main adversary, Danny McBride…
Everyone is terrific at playing themselves, but no one carries this movie like Danny McBride. Known for his wildly successful HBO series Eastbound and Down more than anything else, McBride has a way with pronunciation that makes just about anything he says funny. He twists whole sentences around in his mouth before spitting them out with his Southeastern accent and gentle nudges toward antebellum affectation, glaring at his co-stars with his half-closed constantly stoned looking eyes. McBride is a caricature before he’s even embellished, simply by virtue of his innate comic ability and what we assume about his personality in real life. That he’s absolutely hilarious no doubt plays a part in this.
Here McBride is the foil. He’s the outsider that no one likes, and a surprisingly large part of the film’s plotting comes from how long the other guys can stand staying in a house with him and playing nice. Eventually they kick him out and he becomes…well, see the movie for yourself. But what he becomes plays a large part in the death of James Franco and the fates of both Rogen and Baruchel. See, in order to be whisked away from the apocalypse and onward to the pearly gates, our heroes need to learn a few hard lessons, the most important of which they could have learned a lot sooner if they’d just watched an earlier stoner comedy from 1989: be excellent to each other.
I liked this one a lot. I will also be the first to admit that I have a lot of good will toward all parties involved in This Is the End. These guys make me fell like I’m hanging out with a bunch of friends who are all far funnier than myself. So, maybe I’m skewed is what I’m saying. I still think that there are more of you out there who will like this than not.
Co-writers and first time co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote the screenplays for Superbad, Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet, perfectly meld humor and terror, with one of the sharpest comedies to come out of Hollywood since the beginning of the whole Judd Apatow clan took over the production cycle after The 40 Year Old Virgin. The jokes come fast and furious, ranging from a sharp satirization of celebrity lifestyles to crude filthiness that left me giggling and guffawing more often than not. Less written than it is acted, the film is blisteringly funny, and it leaves no stone unturned, no ground too hallowed for walking over and yelling the word “fuck.”
4.5 out of 5 stars