A film review by Craig J. Koban June 20, 2013


2013, R, 112 mins.


Jonah Hill as Jonah Hill  /  James Franco as James Franco  /  Jay Baruchel as Jay Baruchel  /  Craig Robinson as Craig Robinson  /  Jason Segel as Jason Segel  /  Danny McBride as Danny McBride  /  Seth Rogen as Seth Rogen  /  Rihanna as Rihanna  /  Emma Watson as Emma Watson  /  Mindy Kaling as Mindy Kaling  /  Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Christopher Mintz-Plasse  /  Paul Rudd as Paul Rudd

Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

THIS IS THE END is a triple threat film: It’s a highly self-deprecating Hollywood satire, an end-of-days apocalyptic horror thriller, and a cautionary tale of what not to do while you’re a guest at James Franco’s mansion.  

The film marks the third collaboration between writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and SUPERBAD) and also marks their directorial debut (which is based on a 2007 short film that they made called JAY AND SETH VERSUS THE APOCALYPSE).  Ingeniously, THIS IS THE END features Rogen and a slew of his real life actor BFFs all playing crazed, deliriously exaggerated, and playfully demented versions of themselves as they, yes, literally deal with the end of the world.  What emerges is one of the most outrageous, go-for-broke, anything goes, and infectiously ambitious movie comedies of recent memory.  

Almost the entire film takes place in James Franco’s pad during what appears to be the Biblical end of days occuring on the outside.  Before that, though, we are introduced to all the key characters (if I can call them that).  Jay (Jay Baruchel) has just arrived in Los Angeles to hook back up with his oldest Canadian friend, Seth (Seth Rogen).  Jay is a rather proud Canadian that does not like the City of Angels, but Seth promises him a wondrous evening of pot smoking, beer drinking, 3D movies, and video games back at his place.  Jay’s initial pleasure is interrupted by an impromptu invitation by James (James Franco) for the two of them to come out to party at his newly constructed house, which he designed himself.  Jay does not want to go, mostly because James can never remember his bloody name. 

Nonetheless, Jay begrudgingly decides to tag along with Seth as the two make their way to James’ house and when they arrive it is littered with hundreds of other celebrities, including Jason (Jason Segal), Rihanna (Rihanna), and Michael (Michael Cera), whose outside preppy, good boy boy image is just a false façade to pathetically mask the fact that he’s an unmitigated cocaine and skirt chasing degenerate. When Seth’s other major L.A. friends show up – Craig (Craig Robinson) and Jonah (Jonah Hill) – Jay feels left out.  His feeling of isolation and bromate abandonment are short lived, because the Rapture begins and turns L.A. into a molten, fiery hell.  Segal, Rhianna, and Cera are the first to die horrendous deaths. 



Now, it takes some time before Seth, Jay, James, Jonah and Craig realize that the Rapture is indeed happening beyond the confines of Franco’s crib.  They quickly take stock of the situation and gather all of their food supplies (which includes a single and very tasty looking Milky Way bar), but things go from bad to worse when Danny McBride shows up and cooks all of the leftover food as a surprise wake-up gift for his pals the next day.  After getting over this incalculable FUBAR on McBride’s part, the gang decides to do what they can to psychologically make it through what is occurring, like, for example, making the impromptu PINEAPPLE EXPRESS 2: BLOOD RED with the camera Franco used in 127 HOURS.  Yet, when demons and other monsters from you know where begin to show up at their doorstep, all of these actors-turned-would-be-ultimate-survivalists know that they have their work cut out for them. 

There are more gut-busting guffaws during the first ten minutes of THIS IS THE END than during the entirety of most other recent comedies that I’ve seen.  Rogen and Goldberg, perhaps like Mel Brooks before them, seem to have no qualms at all about doing or showing just about anything to garner a huge laugh; even some of the sight gag misfires in the film are commendable for their very ambition.  The film opens by being a rather pointed and spot-on lampooning of the reputations of Rogen et al, and you can really sense that all of these guys are having an unmitigated blast twisting and mocking their respective celebrity images (granted, Michael Cera might be having too much fun).  Rogen and Goldberg seem to have their fingers on the pulse on celebrity Hollywood culture and how some actors become festering prima donas.  Franco in particular is frequently eviscerated by the film’s portrayal of him, as he’s typically shown as a narcissistic, artsy-fartsy douche bag that has an inflated sense of his own value as an actor.  His complete self-absorption is infectiously hysterical here.  

That’s not to say that the other actors aren’t funny showing up themselves for amusing ridicule either.  Baruchel is an awfully good sport for playing up to the running gag that no one knows who is or cares to know.  Jonah Hill – with a diamond stud in his ear and a perpetually annoying soft-spoken demeanor - comes off as a total phony that hurts his intended prey with false kindness.  Rogen also gets a lion’s share of ribbing, especially at the expense of his, shall we say, lack of stellar roles that push his acting chops.  Danny McBride is, well, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson is really an emotional puppy dog underneath, despite wearing a t-shirt that says “Take Yo Panties Off.”  Even during the midst of knowing that the end may be near, all of these hapless dudes cannot seem to stop inadvertently making fools of themselves, such is the case when they make Emma (Emma Watson) incorrectly believe that they are going to gang rape her.  She responds by swinging an axe at them and looting their stash.  This culminates with the film’s best humdinger of a line: “Hermione just stole all of our shit.” 

What’s truly surprising about THIS IS THE END – beyond its bravura self-roasting of its own celebs – is that it actually manages to be a movie that takes the Rapture and the end of the world pretty literally, especially in the manner in which the characters – and the audience – ask a simple question: who deserves to burn in hell and who deserves to go to heaven?  When one of the actors becomes possessed by the devil, akin to Linda Blair in THE EXORCIST, Jay crafts a makeshift crucifix out of kitchen tools to expunge the demon from his buddy, with predictably amusing results.  The way THIS IS THE END segues from a showbiz satire to a survival thriller and then to a metaphysical commentary on the nature of achieving a place with the big man upstairs is to its credit.  Just when you think the film has run out of comic mileage, it amps it up again in its climax to show the incredulously funny lengths that the remaining survivors will go to in order to go to heaven.  It dies not work as planned for one in particular. 

I don’t think that a single review – if any combined – could adequately relay the sheer and unbridled lunacy of THIS IS THE END.  It’s one of those highly rare screen comedies that can’t be simply defined or described and just has to be seen in order to comprehend just how crazy of an experience it is.  Sure, not all of the jokes work flawlessly (there is perhaps one too many images of demons sporting massive erections for my own taste here), but THIS IS THE END deserves serious props for daring to be bold, different, free-wheeling, and an incredibly sustained laugh-riot that mixes comedy and horror better than most films.  The way Rogen and Goldberg – whom both come off as natural comedic directors – try to pack their film with as much throw-caution-to-the-wind humor as possible shows how inspired and determined they are.  

Oh, and the film also taught me one valuable lesson: Don’t ever…ummmm…make a deposit in the pages of one of James Franco’s most prized porn magazines.  


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