What kind of movie is ”This Is The End” going to be, you wonder before you go in – a parody on Hollywood personalities (from several Hollywood personalities themselves), or a serious apocalyptic horror-comedy with an actual plot?
Based on a short film called ”Jay and Seth vs The Apocalypse” made by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, it shows what happens when a group of famous actors (all playing themselves) gather at a party when the biblical rapture hits the world.
After picking up friend Jay Baruchel at the airport when he comes to LA to stay, Seth Rogen takes the pair to a party at James Franco’s house in the Hollywood Hills attended by a rogues gallery of stars, from main players Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride to cameos from Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Michael Cera (in the film’s scene-stealing role playing a coked-up sex addict), Mindy Kaling, Emma Watson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rhianna, Aziz Ansari and Emma Watson – to name a few.
Jay can’t stand Seth’s new Hollywood friends – Hill portrayed as a sweet-as-pie passive aggressive, Franco a self-obsessed art snob – and he convinces Seth to go with him to a nearby grocery store for cigarettes. While there, a huge crash shakes the street outside which everyone thinks is an earthquake, but only Jay sees the beams of blue light come through the ceiling, taking several bystanders up into a sky rapidly filling with smoke and panic.
The two hightail it back to Franco’s house where the partygoers are none the wiser, but when chaos descends and everyone gathers on the front lawn, a huge sinkhole appear to take most of the cream of Hollywood comedy with it.
Only Rogen, Franco, Baruchel and Robinson make it back inside, barricading themselves in against the fires and terror outside (not to mention some huge snarling beast they can’t see).
As Jay tries to convince them it’s the end of days foretold in the Bible – and only the righteous will be saved – things go from bad to worse as the water, food and supplies (including a porno mag) are running out.
All the energy and writing might have been put into the gags, the narrative a lazy throughline to hang them all from, but there is actually a story to take up the one hour fifty minute running time (although to be truthful it’s more in service of the gags than the other way around).
It also seems highly improvised, as you’d expect when most of the talent has come from the Judd Apatow stable, and everyone has great fun playing either extreme versions of their public personas or subverting them completely. It’s said directors Rogen and Goldberg had a competition with each other to see who could get the most refusals out of their actors for the extreme acts they were asked to do.
It’s a self-satire romp with a unique premise – what would coddled Hollywood stars do if left to defend themselves, survivalist-style against hellfire and demons? – and everyone has a great time. The laughs don’t always come thick and fast, and This Is The End isn’t in any way polished. It’s more like a bunch of friends sitting around trying to make each other laugh than a carefully crafted comedy ensemble.
But the raw, authentic approach is sorely missing from Hollywood nowadays – especially with the endless procession of superhero movies massaged to within an inch of their lives by marketing committees – so every laugh you’ll enjoy is honest and eager.
And of course, despite any flaws, it’s quite unlike any more you’ve seen before.