This Is the End
Opens Wed., June 12 at Varsity and other theaters. Rated R. 106 minutes.
This apocalypse comedy’s very first musical cue—KRS-One’s remix of a certain 1981 hit by Blondie—succinctly predicts its central plot gimmick, which I’ll try not to spoil for you. In a film where the cast members are all playing showbiz caricatures of themselves, some more exaggerated than others, Jay Baruchel is the first to guess what’s happening when he and Seth Rogen sneak out of James Franco’s house party to get some smokes at a convenience store. There, all hell breaks loose in what appears to be a combined earthquake/firestorm/looting spree. The two terrified Canadian actors run back to Franco’s house where, in the movie’s best gag, all the revelers keep on partying like nothing’s happened outside. This is Hollywood, after all, a place that the visiting Jay claims to despise. His buddy Seth has become a big star since Knocked Up, creating some resentments and envy they take with them to the party—even after a marathon afternoon of dope-smoking and Xbox-playing.
To take this morality tale completely out of order, Jay’s most damning complaint about Seth is “You’ve changed.” This is apparent from Seth’s nice house and Franco’s even grander house, which is packed with art—naturally including a giant penis—and other tokens of his A-list success. Jay’s the insecure fish out of water, intimidated by the other celebs. These include a glad-handing Jonah Hill, an obnoxious Danny McBride, and a sweetly loyal Craig Robinson. In smaller roles are a coked-up Michael Cera, a lusty Mindy Kaling (“He probably has a huge cock,” she says while pursuing Cera), Rihanna, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka McLovin in Superbad), Emma Watson (cast against type), and too many others to name.
But the party must end, leaving a half-dozen stragglers at Franco’s pad. There follows the expected dick jokes, fart jokes, masturbation jokes, “rapey vibe” jokes, fights over food, and strains among the friendship of this all-male crew. How will these celeb-bros respond to a time of crisis? Will they grow up a little? Not that this is a Judd Apatow movie—Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg co-directed the film, which eventually adds computer effects to the frat-house atmosphere.
Fitfully funny, This Is the End riffs back through two favorite film genres (one being the all-star disaster movie); it’s part spoof, partly serious. The laughs are rooted in contempt—if not quite self-contempt—for Hollywood phoniness and disloyalty. In that venal town, says Robinson of their dwindling little circle of friends, “Those assholes are all we’ve got.” It’s probably the only paraphrase of Matthew 7:12 you’ll hear in a movie this summer, and he’s not kidding.