Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this apocalyptical analysis of dick jokes defies the odds and works as a meditation on friendship, the value of celebrities in modern culture and also dick jokes.
Seth Rogen, playing Seth Rogen, picks up Jay Baruchel, playing Jay Baruchel, at the airport in LA and proceeds to spend some quality catch-up time with him. Baruchel is not a fan of the LA lifestyle and there are hints of a friendship at breaking point between the pair, but also genuine brotherhood as we watch them scissor each other amid a messy pad.
Uh, yes anyway. Rogen is up for partying at James Franco’s pad (played by James Franco) and though Baruchel is not feeling it, he goes anyway. It’s a party full of hip young douchebags such as Michael Cera’s coke-snorting Rihanna-slapping Michael Cera and the fantastically creepy Jonah Hill (played by Jonah Hill).
It’s not long before Baruchel is doing his introvert thing and aching for an excuse to get away, but before you know it all hell breaks loose, literally, as LA is struck by a weird earthquake and people are sucked up into the sky via blue lights. Siege time!
As we watch Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Hill and the hilarious Craig Robinson (Craig Robinson) and Danny McBride (Danny McBride) all collide together in a squalid environment succumbing to in-fighting, paranoia, and petty selfish behaviour the apocalypse infringes more and more on their souls until the devilish cat is out of the bag and the entire point of this ridiculous endeavour is made clear.
The thematic spine is very well thought-out, make no mistake. This film isn’t just an excuse to throw famous people together. The main characters’ conflict is relevant and universal. Who hasn’t seen someone in their life get further and further away and thrashed against the winds of change in an attempt to keep a relationship going? Who hasn’t moved to LA to hang out with Franco and watched their Canadian soul be filtered through Americana?
Ok, the reason why the film even concentrates on vapid famous people is a masterstroke. Talking about it at depth would spoil the movie so you’ll just have to trust me on this. The apocalypse is directly tied to the nature of the survivors and how they react in the aftermath will dictate if they survive it or not.
In true post-post-modern fashion, this is a meta-humour-fest, full of in-jokes and obscure references, such as when the goofy survivors film a fake trailer to Pineapple Express 2 out of sheer boredom of being holed up in Franco’s pad while the world around them burns away. McBride’s mischievous interloper continually stirs things up and mocks the actors for their true-life exploits, as is seen in the trailer, openly deriding Rogen for the subpar Green Hornet of 2011.
In a way watching the actors rip into each other is cathartic for both the viewer and the actors themselves who no doubt must have felt some genuine emotion at times, being able to say harsh things about each other and accepting it in turn.
But let’s not forget that this is a comedy and not an introspective analysis of modern cinema, there are plenty of outrageous moments that are hilarious for the fact that the actors performing them are performing them as themselves. To see Jonah Hill portray himself as such a monumentally creepy guy whose character arc descends into utter madness is making me laugh as I type this. He just might have the best scene in the film when he keeps rhetorically asking Baruchel if he’s being compelled. I will say no more on that matter.
There is also a long interplay between Franco and McBride about the ethical boundaries and guest rights of being able to jerk wherever one pleases in ones home. Yes it all sounds juvenile, but amongst the perpetual dick jokes there is still the entire point of the film bubbling under the surface. There is a point why these characters are horrendously obnoxious and infantile, and fear not there are actual character arcs completing their journey by the end.
The eventual destination for some of the characters is a real make or break moment for the film, and although I can understand why some may say it doesn’t work and makes no logical sense, I’m going to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re poking fun at the entire premise of the film. And the fact that some of the characters end up more or less behaving how they were at the beginning of the film is a commentary on how ludicrous the entire system of surviving the apocalypse is.
There are cameos all over the place, and one of the most pronounced ones is Emma Watson making a brief appearance and wielding an axe, like I’m supposed to give a damn. She is just a distraction. She has no comedic value and is there purely for the ‘wtf’ factor. Though there is a humorous moment borne from her presence, another actor would have sold it better. But in Watson’s defence, this is a film written and directed by men, and starring mostly men, so of course her role was going to be underwritten, and there’s not much for her to do. I guess my point is, Mila Kunis who was originally meant to play the part could have made a lot out of a little, being that she has experience in big comedy films, with her great turn in Seth MacFarlane’s Ted. (ok, actually writing decent female roles would have been nice too fellas)
This Is The End actually ends with a kick to the balls. I was both grudgingly impressed by the last few minutes, and wanted it to end as mercifully fast as possible. Unfortunately it did what it meant to: have me humming an annoying song by accident for the rest of the day. Make of that what you will!