Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and James Franco find themselves holed up in the latter’s house after the apocalypse begins. The six must find out how to ration the water, food and crucially, the drugs, while trying to survive the end of days.
This is the End is based on the 2007 short film, Jay and Seth Vs. The Apocalypse. Rather than have the actors in the film play characters that they would have to introduce and then develop, instead they play slightly fictionalised versions of themselves, drawing on public perception of them and their relationships with one another.
Each actor plays a version of themselves; James Franco is a ‘pretentious nerd’, whose new house is the venue for a huge party that is interrupted by the apocalypse, Seth Rogen is a slightly aggro stoner, Jay Baruchel is an awkward outsider, Jonah Hill is so nice and sweet that it borders on insincere, Danny McBride is a watered down version of Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down (in other words a self involved ass who believes that he is the greatest thing to hit this planet) and Craig Robinson is a genuine everyman with a girly scream. Each performance is exactly what you might expect, but this is not a film that hinges on building character, instead, it relies on the banter between characters as they take the mick out of themselves. It should be noted that Danny McBride is actually a really nice guy. But I digress…
The supporting cast is made up of almost every comedic actor you can think of; Michael Cera – hilariously playing an absolutely horrible, coke-addled character – Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd and Rihanna all turn up in the party scene. As well as this, Emma Watson finally shakes off her Hermione image – although Danny McBride refers to her by her most famous character’s name – as she wields an axe and shouts obscenities.
The jokes are typical stoner comedy jokes – dick and fart jokes all the way – but since they are at the expense of actors, it allows the audience to laugh at the images these actors have created around themselves… Seriously, Franco can’t be quite that pretentious, can he? Although the humour feels familiar, it is not as brash as with other stoner comedies, and there are many laugh out loud moments. The scenes in the house begin well, but once the drugs are used up, it seems the jokes are too. It takes a while for the actual story behind the apocalypse to come to light, but when it does, the film moves forward at a good pace. As well as this, there are some truly inspired montages that are only made better by their soundtracks, including Gangnam Style (Yes, I know) and Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).
This is the End is both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s first foray into directing, and they manage well. Of course, their task was made easier since they are working with friends, but no complaints. The gimmick of the film – having actors play themselves – works and once the novelty begins to wear off, new characters and story elements are added to keep the film feeling fresh.
This is the End is the best comedy of the year so far, and probably the best stoner comedy since Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (I hated Pineapple Express). The casting gimmick works, the jokes work and, apart from some dodgy pacing in the middle, the film works as a whole. Oh and prepare to start searching for your old Backstreet Boys albums…