The end of the world (or more notably known by the ominous title “the apocalypse”) has always been something we, as humanity, have feared, never knowing when it will come, or if it will actually come, and if there is an end in the books. Every few years, some loon comes out of the woodwork, explaining how he or she has some irrefutable evidence that the end is nigh. Whether through speaking to God or doing some complex mathematics, they truly believe the end of the world is coming very soon, and scare people who actually subscribe to that nonsense. The world of film has often had fun with the idea of the world ending, creating catastrophic situations and a heightened sense of survival of the fittest. It is thrilling cinema, and can often be scary, assuming something nefarious or otherworldly is involved. Yet, the most poignant and exciting “end of the world” film I’ve seen is not one that relies on terror or shock or dramatic situations to tell the tales of the apocalypse, but instead a gloriously meta comedy that parodies both the idea of celebrities, and the end of the world.
This Is the End is told mainly from the perspective of Jay Baruchel (playing himself), who arrives in Los Angeles, a city he can’t stand, and stays with his old friend, Seth Rogen (also playing himself) and that night, they decide to go to a housewarming party thrown by James Franco (playing himself…actually, everyone in this film is playing themselves) and during that party, things take a turn for the worse when an enormous hole opens right in front of Franco’s home, and dozens of celebrities are sucked into the whole, perishing in what we eventually discover are the fires of Hell. The only ones left in the house are Jay, Seth, Franco, along with Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson (and, as we discover later on, a gatecrashing Danny McBride) – the six have to try and do one simple task that is just too damn difficult – survive. When it becomes clear that this is the actual end of the world, and all the good people have been lifted up to Heaven, our gang tries desperately to prove they too deserve a place upstairs.
This Is the End is an odd film. Like incredibly strange. That doesn’t prevent it from being one of funniest films I’ve seen in a while, and one that’s strangeness is only comparable by the amount of sheer hilarious stupidity this film stuffs into its plot. I can’t think of any other film where Kevin Hart and Jason Segel get sucked into a massive fiery hole, Jonah Hill gets possessed by a malevolent demon with quite a wry sense of humor, and the Backstreet Boys perform a concert in the afterlife. I really love how this generation has their own Brat Pack, with the likes of Rogen, Franco, Hill and others like Channing Tatum and Paul Rudd (both of which have memorable cameos in the film). Watching them here, or in any other film in which some of them star together, make it seem less like they are simply actors collaborating, and more like friends just having fun. That is exactly what This Is the End is. It is not a serious film in any way – it is actually, quite frankly, stupid. Yet, it isn’t stupid in a bad way, and it is nothing less than an awesome comedy. It is the fact that the makers of the film knew how stupid the premise was, and made it so exaggerated and ridiculous, it was actually incredibly smart. Rogen and Evan Goldberg really needed to be intelligent to pull off something this ridiculously silly, and they achieved that and created a wonderfully strange comedy.
This Is the End is a lot of fun. It has a great cast – look out for wonderful cameos by some very funny people, and a very fun small supporting performance by Emma Watson, who continues to shed her Hermione image by giving some really diverse performances, even if it is just a small role in an ensemble comedy where she gets to attack people with an axe. I certainly think it is a very funny film that of course has the vulgarity and crass nature that we have grown to love from these guys, along with a very compelling, yet strange story. It is very different, very unique and of course just plain hilarious.