Iím not a huge fan of the movies of James Franco and Seth Rogen, and Iíve never gone to see a single movie starring any of the stars of this film (Franco, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson) because it starred them. I like Craig Robinson, I enjoy Danny McBride in small doses, I think Jonah Hill should do more dramas than comedies (he was excellent in Moneyball), and Jay Baruchel has the most horrendous voice this side of Fran Drescher.
When I first learned of This Is The End, I had zero interest in seeing it, but when I saw the trailer, I thought it was kinda funny, and the more trailers I saw, the more I started to look forward to it. Iím glad it came out on Man of Steel weekend because I absolutely hate going to a crowded movie theater. This gave me something to see without having to jostle for elbow room with loud high school kids or fundamentalist Superman fans who would spend the entire film bitching about what Zack Snyder got wrong.
There werenít many people at the screening and thatís a shame. This is a really funny movie that affirms that you should judge films by the films on the screen, not by the people in them, and that weíre on the verge of a 30-year run of Emma Watson being the most awesome woman on the planet.
From start to finish, the movie delivers a consistent stream of laughs. Co-directors and co-screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg do a really great job balancing the jokes between the movieís stars with a solid subplot playing under the apocalypse, with the divide between Rogenís longtime friend Jay Baruchel, and his new Hollywood pals. While itís not a new conceit anymore to see actors playing alternate versions of themselves on screen (itís been a quarter century since Itís Garry Shandlingís Show, which wasnít the first to do it but feels like the most inspirational for this generation of filmmakers), the actors do the style proud, playing some combination of who they really are, while also taking the piss out of their own public image.
Take Franco. He had a nice run as a Renaissance Man of sorts (or what passes for one in Hollywood) these past few years and here, heís the most accomplished actor in the bunch. Itís his semi-ridiculous house where the main action takes place, and heís got it stuffed with his own artwork (including a pair of paintings that include just his own name on one and Rogenís on the other) and props from his movies. His personality is a reflection of the house; he is both the most grown-up of all of them, but also the most scattered.
Franco and Baruchel represent the two sides of Rogenís life: Hollywood and pre-Hollywood, and Rogen and Goldberg do a pretty good job weaving this subplot through the movie. It makes Baruchel unlikable, because even though heís a Hollywood actor, his schtick is that heís anti-Hollywood, and doesnít like coming to town. The movie opens with him arriving at the airport to spend some time with Rogen, but after a day filled with Carlís Jr, candy, video games, and pot, Rogen wants to go to Francoís house for a huge party. Baruchel doesnít want to go because he doesnít like Rogenís new friends. The film positions him as both the ďgood guy,Ē because heís the first to realize what theyíre experiencing is the Biblical apocalypse but also kind of a dick because he doesnít want to be there and he thinks heís better than everyone else.
Unfortunately, in the filmís one major misstep, the film ends up rewarding Baruchel instead of Franco. It has to do this, really, because of the way the film is set up. In a dueling battle of buddies, his long-term friendship with Rogen wins out over Francoís shorter-term friendship, even though Franco comes off as the much-nicer guy. Not a great guy, because Rogen and Goldberg wisely give everyone both positive and negative qualities. All the leads do good things and bad things: McBride starts by making everyone breakfast and ends by becoming a cannibal.
This really is the apocalypse taking place and not a shared drug illusion. Francoís party is filled with young Hollywood types and for the most part everyone does a good job lampooning themselves. The scene feels like itís included just because Rogen could get Kevin Hart and Mindy Kaling and Jason Segel to show up for a few hours, but it sets a nice tone. Michael Cera seems to have the most fun creating a cinematic alter ego, but itís the least fun to watch because itís so over the top and so far away from his image that it just feels like a put-on.
Cera vs. Rihanna.
Everyone else crafts an alter ego that feels believable. The other person who feels off is Emma Watson. Like with Cera, the film wants to milk comedy out of her doing things you donít believe, but she canít quite commit to something ridiculous. While Cera comes off too over-the-top, itís admirable that he commits so fully. Watsonís appearance just never comes together. I donít believe sheíd even come to this party, and if she did, it might have worked better to play up her awkwardness or go all out and have her do the ass slapping bits that Cera engages in.
Watson comes back later as an ax-wielding bad-ass, but she bails after hearing the guys outside her room talking about whoís most likely to rape her. Itís an edgy bit. I feel like Iím supposed to go, ďOh, Emma Watson with an ax, thatís funny.Ē But itís not. It just doesnít work as well as everything else in the film works because itís just a series of scenes, not an arc or a real character.
But that doesnít take away from the film. All the leads are really funny and have really good moments. The scene in the kitchen where they argue over a single Milky Way candy bar after they realize theyíre stuck together perfectly encapsulates the filmís humor. By spreading out the workload, the film is constantly moving, even though theyíre largely stuck in one place. All the leads are willing to laugh at themselves, and they do a good job coming together (like when they make Pineapple Express 2 with a single camera) and bursting apart (like when they kick McBride out of the house) time and again.
I really like this movie. I laughed the whole time and it manages to tell a good story that creates and allows for the jokes, instead of simply being a host of bits strung together. If you completely hate these actors, that might be too much to overcome, but if youíre willing to give them a shot, this is a funny, unique movie.