The summer movie season is here! Amidst all of the action films and indie movies I’ve been looking forward to seeing, there’s one comedy I anticipated above all others, and that is Seth Rogen’s and Evan Goldberg’s This Is the End.
I was not even a huge Seth Rogen fan going into this film, but this movie made me appreciate his talent and humor more than ever. That’s because this script is so damn different than anything else out there — and all of the actors, including Rogen, are playing versions of themselves.
The movie opens with Seth in the airport picking up his friend Jay Baruchel for a weekend of weed and video games. That’s all Jay wants to do, but Seth insists on dragging him to James Franco’s uber-Hollywood party, filled with the pretentious actors and sell-outs Jay hates. This includes a coked-up Michael Cera and a super-nice-guy-with-an-earring Jonah Hill, the latter of whom Jay can’t stand. Right away, the movie has James Franco greeting Seth and Jay by talking about how everything is art, and I was hooked.
But when Seth and Jay leave the party for a minute to grab some food at a nearby convenience store, the world opens up and blue light filters down from heaven. It takes a while to convince everyone back at the party that it’s the Rapture, but by the morning, the only survivors in James Franco’s house are James, Seth, Jay, Jonah, and Craig Robinson — oh, and Danny McBride.
This Is the End is a send-up of apocalypse horror films, focusing (rather refreshingly) on the end of the world as proposed by the Book of Revelations rather than, say, another zombie apocalypse… even though Emma Watson is convinced it’s definitely zombies. With this more religious theme, the movie is also able to poke fun at demon possession and The Exorcist, and a trip to heaven is offered only to those who are capable of self-sacrifice. It’s fun to see each character go through a personal journey of redemption. Whether Craig is talking about how he once poked out someone’s eyes or Jonah is politely praying for someone to die, these character studies are always funny and never feel heavy-handed.
What makes this movie even more interesting and original is that each actor is portraying himself or herself — and that means poking fun at themselves, too. James Franco in particular stands out not because his performance is any better than anyone else’s, but because he really goes all out with his slightly pretentious “artist” persona. Other than him, the stand-out performance for me is Jonah’s, but I’m sure many other people dig Danny McBride’s turn as the jerk who crashes Franco’s apocalypse party, eats all the food, and stages meltdowns at the worst possible times.
Going into the film, I expected the performances to be slightly over-the-top and cheesy, but I was relieved to find everything was deadpan. The situations are ridiculous, but the characters take it all — and themselves — seriously. There are even confessional videos threaded throughout the film as the actors record their thoughts during their last days on earth.
I have to admit that I also had unfair assumptions about the type of humor This Is the End would include based on its predominantly male cast. When I see a comedy with a bunch of dudes as the main characters, I figure the humor will probably be raunchy. That’s great, but every once in a while, the jokes from the male perspective can go just a tad overboard and make me wonder if, as a woman, I’m still supposed to be laughing along or not. In other words, there comes a point when I can’t help but think, “Wow, I don’t think this movie was made for women, is it okay that I’m here?” And then the film moves on to other jokes, and the plot reels me back in, and I laugh some more.
But This Is the End does not go there. There is plenty of raunchy humor, but its point is not to objectify women. There are even a couple of instances when I expected the raunch to come, but it didn’t. Instead, this movie goes for the dorky jokes and a type of universal humor that’s not about being a man, it’s just about being a person. I love that. By not focusing on the male perspective too much, I was able to relate to the characters a lot more, too.
The best part is just how much I came to like the characters and root for them. It’s a story about redemption and sacrifice and getting along with others, but in the end, it comes down to the friendship between Seth and Jay and whether they’ll make it to heaven together or not.
Oh, and did I mention the actors, trying to entertain themselves during their last days, film the sequel to Pineapple Express and air it right there in the middle of This Is the End?