This is the End Review
Seth Rogen’s philosophy for Pineapple Express was that it’d be funny to see stoners incompetently fighting bad guys in an action thriller. This Is the End follows that formula, switching to apocalyptic survival: Rogen survives the end of the world with Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel and Pineapple Express co-stars James Franco, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson. To hammer it home, the “characters” create a trailer for Pineapple Express 2. The Pineapple Express method crashed when Rogen re-attempted the genre mash-up with The Watch and The Green Hornet. Franco and McBride had similar issues with Your Highness. Fortunately, This Is the End isn’t concerned with genre tropes or being taken seriously. Sure, there are explosions and monsters, but it’s first and foremost a comedy. And a self-indulgent one, too. The James Francopalypse bears Judd Apatow’s fingerprints all over, even without his involvement; the semi-improvised dialogue is infused by immature jabs, all under the mist of marijuana smoke. Looking at the cast, it’s almost Knocked Up without Katherine Heigl. Apatow’s other collaborators turn up to Franco’s house party, and it’s a living room full of celebrity cameos. It becomes the kind of gathering where conversation is built upon saying someone’s full name, just in case the viewer can’t recognise Aziz Ansari or Kevin Hart. With little explanation, a hole in the ground swallows up Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and countless other big names. It sets up the second and third act as mostly an inordinate chamber piece for the gang to pass time, wondering if they’ll die of starvation. The second half drops slightly in quality because of the editing. Or lack of, I should say. It’s incredibly loose, redolent of Rogen and Goldberg’s confidence that off-the-cuff humour might sustain an audience’s attention. They’re almost right. McBride is especially hilarious and divisive, with a slow-mo entrance taken straight out of Eastbound and Down, while Jonah Hill’s self-deprecatingly can’t stop mentioning Moneyball. That self-obsession (half ironic, half obscene) builds a narcissistic chemistry which is more self-indulgent than even Knocked Up, but takes accomplished comic actors and literally puts them all in a room. Even if it goes on for too long, the insular scenes include inspired moments like a DIY Pineapple Express 2 trailer (shot with the camera from 127 Hours) and Franco uttering, “But let’s not make Your Highness 2.” Your patience also depends on how long you can tolerate the cast. It’s not as obnoxious as Entourage, but it’s very much a boys’ club. Disconcertingly, there are no female characters. Emma Watson is closest to a leading lady, with a few sentences probably all in the trailer. In addition, everyone plays themselves, so characters aren’t developed beyond asking, “How you could you not know who these people are?” For all its faults, This Is the End doesn’t pretend to be anything but a comedy. And, judging it on that level, it’s hugely funny, even if at times it mirrors a lengthy Funny or Die sketch. It has more of the youthful enthusiasm of Pineapple Express (written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg before they were famous) than their more cynical flirtations with mainstream action fare. The cast grew up together as friends on film sets, and clearly had a blast surviving the blast. At the very least, it’s worth a cinema trip just to see Michael Cera coked up and hitting on Rihanna.