There’s one question that “Independence Day,” “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Cloverfield,” “The Core,” “War of the Worlds,” and other disaster movies never acknowledge. Where are the celebrities during all this mayhem? Aside from Bill Murray’s hilarious cameo in “Zombieland,” we never get to see what the rich and fabulous are up to during the apocalypse. There aren’t any scientists, soldiers, politicians or everyday people in “This Is the End.” James Franco and friends are the film’s focus as they try to survive the end of the world and each other.
Seth Rogen plays Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel plays Jay Baruchel. They’ve been friends since childhood, although Baruchel has been feeling some animosity towards the more successful Rogen as of late. The film starts off as a typical stoner comedy with the two going to a party at Franco’s new pad. Then suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, all heck breaks loose. The good are beamed up to heaven while the wicked are left behind to burn. Rogen and Baruchel seek refuge in Franco’s house along with Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride.
Last year we got “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” an apocalypse movie that was equal parts comedy and drama. “This Is the End” is a full out comedy and it certainly delivers the laughs despite its grim subject matter. A lot of this humor is derived from how all these real life actors are willing to poke fun at their egos. Franco is naturally the self-appointed leader of the group, Hill is the conceited narcissist, Baruchel is the modest outsider, and McBride is the selfish SOB nobody can stand. While they’re playing exaggerated variations of themselves, you never doubt them for a second in these roles.
Along with the six leads, there are several classic brief bits involving Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd, and a totally whacked out Michael Cera. Not every bit in the movie hits it out of the park. There’s one scene involving Emma Watson that starts off with promise, but ultimately works up to an uninspired conclusion. On occasion the film runs the risk of becoming an extravagant special effects picture with CGI demon penises flying at the screen. For the most part, however, “This Is the End” is more about jokes and interactions. On that basis, the chemistry between these incredibly funny guys is always dead on.
“This is the End” marks the directorial debut of Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who previously wrote “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” together. In many respects, their film is much like “Tropic Thunder,” only with real actors as apposed to fictional ones. This makes for some great inside jokes and references, most notably when Rogen is called out for botching “The Green Hornet.” They even manage to work in a clip from the “Pineapple Express” sequel we’ll never see. The funniest bit of all has got to be the ending. I won’t spoil it for you here, but lets just say it blows Destiny’s Child’s surprise Super Bowl appearance out of the water.
With exception to some missed opportunities and overblown CGI, “This is the End” is one of the funniest movies of the summer and another winning collaboration between this filmmaking team. Let’s hope the world doesn’t really come to an end any time soon. If the end is near, though, wouldn’t it be fun to spend it with some of the funniest men on the planet?
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.