If the world was coming to end all around you, you could pick a worse place to ride it out than some hip Los Angeles house party, right? Well that’s the root of the question in This is the End. A hilarious star-studded, genre bending comedy-horror flick brought to you by some of the funniest working people in Hollywood today. What may seem like a one-joke premise masks what’s actually a refreshingly competent and highly entertaining movie that will have audiences consistently cracking up, grossed out, or both.
It’s not always easy being an actor, even for the famous ones. Sometimes people’s expectations of you can be too much to bear, and before you know it you’re stuck at some awkward LA party at James Franco’s house. Such is the dilemma for Jay Baruchel, successful actor and best friend of Seth Rogan (another “successful” actor). Jay’s visiting LA for the weekend, and not too excited about it. After Seth twists his arm a bit they head over to Franco’s new place for a housewarming party. It quickly gets worse from there – awkward and forced interactions with other celebrities, including walking in on Michael Cera, put Jay to his breaking point. But before he can even imagine the experience getting any more unpleasant… it does. In the blink of an eye the whole world goes to hell, most of the party guests die in a furious bloodbath; and wouldn’t you know it? Jay becomes trapped inside Franco’s house with his least favorite people while they wait out Armageddon.
It’s really difficult to talk about this movie without mentioning the cast first. As most would expect though, they all shine. Jay and Seth manage to convey a legitimate sense of goofy old friendship and chemistry, seeming as if not only can they process the carnage surrounding them, they can’t even move past the childish drama in their own lives. Franco has the right amount of smugness and swagger, leading to some really hilarious tension. Jonah Hill moves deftly from off-putting passive-aggressive to a literal possessed nightmare. Craig Robinson plays his usual hilarious straight man. He’s a much-needed voice of reason amongst one of the most unqualified teams assembled. Danny McBride embraces the crude man-child we’ve come to expect from his turn as Kenny Powers, but without a doubt gets more shock and laughs than any of his peers.
Even actors in their cameo roles each manage to steal the show for whatever screen time the mayhem affords. As far as the written comedy goes, it’s all familiar territory, but used to maximum effect. Each of the cast members plays their part perfectly in such a unique setting. The only honest complaint you could have about the cast is how good everyone is that audiences may wish that the other party guests had bigger parts. The quick jabs and ridiculous behavior – including the total disregard for each other’s lives – are some of the best bits in the movie and over way too soon. Even Emma Watson, who’s so humorously out of place in her limited part, feels more like the setup for a joke than a legitimate character.
This is the End really does have a lot going for it beyond the promise of watching movie stars stumble and charm their way through planet Earth’s final days. Even though the great ensemble cast does make sure they could get by on that charm alone, they accomplish way more. The film is one of the most unique comedies to come out in recent memory, having more in common with a Shaun of the Dead than a Hangover. Some great set pieces, really ridiculous special effects, and even some legitimate scare gags keep things mixed up when the play between the casts threatens to wear a little thin. And! It’s gross. Hysterically gross. Never afraid to push the button in their dialogue, screenwriters Evan Goldberg and Rogan go for broke in the visuals as well. People die in geysers of blood, huge dicks pop up when you’re not expecting them, and cannibalism becomes a societal norm after about a solid fourteen hours of apocalypse. Audiences should know what they’re getting into, but the story is much better served by the movie’s disregard for playing anything safe.
This is the End is a by all rights a much better movie than it could have let itself be. What would have probably been successful as a vanity project between some actor buds turns out to be a cohesive, hilarious, and legitimately interesting concept. It never worries about taking risks, and never hesitates to throw a playful Fuck You at the crowd. Really, the enjoyment will hinge on the audience tolerance for these specific actors, but anyone who enjoys a good R-Rated comedy would be hard pressed to say it doesn’t work.