Owing to that peculiar staple of high-concept mainstream filmmaking – whereby similar plots and thematic strands are occasionally worked into multiple, dissimilar products simultaneously – two comedies released this summer dealt with the apocalypse through the prism of camaraderie: Edgar Wright’s satisfying ‘Cornetto trilogy’ closer The World’s End (2013) and This Is the End (2013), a decidedly cruder, less inventive alternative. This is a boy’s-only genre blend fuelled by the comedic proclivities of a variety of Judd Apatow’s fostered spawn that bares little appeal on paper, but in actuality works extremely well.
Marking the joint directorial débuts of screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the latter of which has previously penned Rogen vehicles from Pineapple Express (2008) to The Green Hornet (2011), This Is the End is transposed from its short film beginnings as ‘Jay and Seth Versus The Apocalypse’ to the big screen, its focus and cast list given a far grander inflation. This version is a construction of contemporary society where Los Angeles serves as the backdrop for impending disaster and big name actors play heightened and predominantly unlikeable versions of themselves, to various degrees of success. Jay Baruchel plays Baruchel as a steadfast outsider who has travelled – to his chagrin – from the comforts of Canada to Los Angeles to stay with best pal Rogen, who in turn has planned a beer, bong and videogame fest.
After quickly blitzing through their copious supplies, Rogen drags Baruchel to a party at James Franco’s lavish new house, peopled by a host of familiar celebrities (the most notable being Rihanna and a coke-snorting Michael Cera) cavorting in that typically Hollywood way, much to the anti-showbiz Baruchel’s displeasure. His negativity towards Tinseltown is exacerbated further when, following the appearance of a gaping celebrity-swallowing crater on the front lawn and a steady glut of mass chaos, a series of earthquakes signal the looming apocalypse. Baruchel, Rogen and Franco – alongside Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and a nauseatingly sincere Jonah Hill – use Franco’s ostensibly indestructible house as a refuge.
With the strained friendship between Baruchel and Rogen serving as the spine for the film, as well as inspiring many scenes featuring the catty one-upmanship of Franco, here an exaggeratedly pretentious braggart, This Is the End is an audacious project powered by a very knowing sense of humour. What could superficially be boiled down as a mere vanity project, the film is more predominantly a cleansing opportunity for these stars to poke fun at their various career failings, from Franco’s association with Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Your Highness (2011) to Hill’s beloved Oscar nomination, as well as a commemorative reunion for actors who, since the turn of the century, have taken mainstream comedy by storm.
Yet, while there is fun to be had in seeing Rogen et al. turning their attentions to another genre, it is rather let down by an overworked CGI-heavy second-half that punctures the tight ultra-meta nature of the opening thirty minutes. As has become tiresomely predictable for this particular troupe, the range of gags is broad and imbalanced, reference-heavy and typically juvenile, but, rape jokes aside, they are mostly laugh out loud funny, if not entirely sophisticated in execution. As a twinning of comedy and vulgar fantasy, the film is found somewhat wanting, but as a springboard for in-jokes and lifestyle indictments en mass, This Is the End is genuinely amusing and guiltily enjoyable.
Win a DVD copy of Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End with our latest competition. Follow this link to enter.