This Is the End works well as a light piece of semi-giddy summer entertainment.
At World’s End
At least in one sense This Is the End is a rarity. It’s one of those movies in which everybody plays himself or herself. That includes some very fun cameos by Rihanna, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Channing Tatum.
Sure, sex and drugs figure into the shenanigans, but not to the extent that might be expected, given, collectively, the brain trust involved in this farce have to their credits The Pineapple Express, Your Highness, Superbad, and oodles of others. Instead, the sex and drugs are at least relatively relegated to the same service they’re used in the typical horror flick. This Is the End, after all, is about the Apocalypse erupting right outside James Franco’s new house and the story serves as an entertaining spin on horror movie storytelling conventions and contrivances served up with a healthy dose of self-parody.
The setup finds Jay Baruchel returning to Hollywood in order to visit his long-time pal and fellow Canadian Seth Rogen. Jay doesn’t feel comfortable in Hollywood, that’s why he prefers to pop in for short visits. But the two buds (as in friends, not joints) seem to be drifting apart. Seth’s making new friends – Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson – but Jay can’t stand any of them.
The story turns out to be stronger than expected as it offers up a number of elements for Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg to play with and exploit.
Movies about movies are a pretty tricky lot. It’s easy for them to come across as self-infatuated, but there are gems like The Artist and Ed Wood which show how it can be done. The key is to share in the affection for and the wonder of the craft.
This Is the End is no The Artist or Ed Wood, but it does match their amiability. The best parts of this spoof stem from the self-effacing sense of humor exhibited by all involved. Only those who know them best can say for sure to what degree the satire reflects off-screen reality, but it’s easy to imagine the movie trash-talking happening over a Bud or a bud. They make fun of each other’s flops – and the flops of others, including Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prince of Persia.
Rogen gets ripped on for selling out when he made The Green Hornet. He concurs. And while they’re stoked about making a sequel to The Pineapple Express – and, indeed, they stage a homemade version to bide the time while the world comes to a crashing halt outside – they also agree there’s no need for a follow-up to Your Highness.
The humor can actually lean toward the relatively subtle on occasion, such as with Franco’s basement vault full of his favorite movie props. Among the treasures is a handheld video camera; Rogen obliviously misreads the label as “27 Hours” when it’s actually from 127 Hours, the movie in which Franco starred as gung-ho hiker Aron Ralston. It’s also an opportunity to resurrect long-forgotten movies, like Franco’s Flyboys.
Perhaps This Is the End works as well as it does because it can be appreciated on a couple different levels. As a spoof of the Hollywood lifestyle, it hits its mark with sweetness.
These guys have made an outrageous fortune acting and pretending. Sure, it might not be easy to pretend it’s frickin’ hot when you’re freezing on a soundstage, or vice versa for that matter. But they make crazy money while they’re at it and in this spoof they admit they’ve found themselves in a nutty-silly lifestyle.
It’s a natural expectation that the end of the world will bring with it some serious cracks in the foundation of Earth and – ultimately – lead to cracks in the walls of Franco’s new pad. Therein lies the downside of the thespian lifestyle. The guy doesn’t even know if he has a toolbox. He knows he has his pistol from Flyboys. But a toolbox? Gotta look for that. There must be one somewhere. And, by the way, thank God for duct tape. Who needs a toolbox when you’ve got duct tape? As is observed among the mayhem, these guys are built for entertainment, not survival.
And they do entertain well with this mashup.
The other layer, and “layer” is used at the risk of sounding highfalutin, is the horror spoof angle. While Jonah Hill’s girth is in itself pretty scary, more laughs come from playing out the oh-so-typical horror movie staples. Many of those aforementioned cameos disappear amid the chaos of the apocalypse, some seem to go almost willfully.
As Baruchel tries to get to the bottom of what’s going, he’s convinced it’s Judgment Day. Of course, Rogen immediately makes the connection. He’s talking about Terminator 2, right?
Nah. The source material is something with a little more gravitas: The Book of Revelations.