Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel in This is the End
In 2007 Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen made a short film titled, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse. It was written by Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jason Stone. Here they expanded on that idea, with Rogen and Evan Goldberg writing and directing.
The gimmick of the film is that everyone is playing themself, sort of. Thus, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel are playing Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel, who attend a party at James Franco's house. The other party guest are mostly a collection of their previous co-stars such as Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Michael Cera. Everyone basically stands around doing drugs while talking about their films. The standout at this point is Michael Cera who is shown to be a coke head. His line, "Is it bad?" is hilarious within the context.
Jonah Hill's nice guy persona is the opposite of McBride's obnoxious asshole persona. James Franco is little more than a stoner. Rogen and Baruchel are the most rounded characters, playing friends who have recently distanced themselves from each other. Emma Watson is the actress who has the most screen time, but she has little to do. Her presence does supply one of the most quotable lines in the film, " Hermione just stole all of our shit! "
Suddenly the Rapture happens and all the good people in the world are drawn up to heaven. Apparently no one in Hollywood is worthy, as none of the guests ascend into heaven. Afterwards, the world becomes a place of earth quakes, fires and marauding demons. Celebrities start dieing off at a very quick pace, until all that is left are the actors shown in the film poster.
The survivors decide to hole up at Franco's house, but with a limited amount of food and an endless supply of egos, tempers soon rise. Allegiances are formed and everyone's weaknesses come to light. These guys may know how to make a movie or where to send there assistants to buy drugs, but when it comes to survival instincts, they're pitiful.
According to Rogen, he and Goldberg wrote the script with real elements of each actors personality and then exaggerated and changed them to create their film personalities. Goldberg reportedly pushed the cast to do more and more extreme jokes. Some of which they balked at. The cum conversation between McBride and Franco is one that pushes the limits, but the most out there scene, in my opinion, is Channing Tatum's cameo.
The idea of a movie star playing themself in a movie seems like a unique idea, but it is not. Ava Gardner had a cameo as herself in The Bandwagon (1953) and Gloria Swanson played herself in Airport 1975 (1974). What makes This is the End so surprisingly unique is that it clearly states that there is a God and you must earn your way into heaven. Name the last time Hollywood made a film where salvation comes in the form of believing in God and doing a selfless act.
Michael Cera and Rihanna in This is the End.
This is the End is a funny, but flawed film. It doesn't surprise me that it started life as a short. In fact, as a full length feature it feels over stretched. Many scenes, while funny, definitely run on far too long. Goldberg and Rogen may take credit for the script, but many of the scenes, usually the least funny ones, feel improvised.
The best and funniest scenes are when the cast are poking fun of themselves, with the opening party scene being the funniest of all. Michael Cera is a scene stealer as Eric mentioned. The dynamics within the main group are also worth a laugh, with Jonah Hill's phony friendliness and James Franco's oddness. It's easy to see that the cast are friends in real life as they play easily off of each other.
Once the apocalypse hits the humor becomes more uneven. Too many of the subsequent scenes feel as if the cameras were just left running and the cast were told to say funny things. The cum conversation that Eric referred to is a prime example. It's not that funny to begin with and then it just keeps right on going.
Emma Watson does get a few laughs, but the biggest laugh she provokes is in reference to her when the guys have a conversation about not raping her, which she misunderstands and leads to the "Hermione stole all of our shit." line.
The humor seems to come from four areas. The first and best are the jokes poking fun at celebrities. The second are the jokes that feature drug use, which I'm guessing most of the script was written under the influence of. The third are jokes that involve bodily fluids such as vomit, urine (as in the drinking of your own), and the aforementioned cum. The final area centers around dicks, which Rogen and Goldberg seem to find hilarious. We're not talking about sophisticated humor here.
Like many of Rogen's films, this one feels a lot like it was knocked together while he and his friends got high and giggled about stuff. Some of it is very funny, but it definitely could have used a tighter edit. There's easily twenty minutes that could have been knocked off of it to bring the running time to a more reasonable 90 minutes. The end promised in the title is a long time coming.
Emma Watson, Jonah Hill, and Seth Rogen in This Is the End.
This Is the End has moments of pure hilarity. At the same time it lacks a cohesive script and many of the jokes drag on too long or completely miss the mark. Like Scott, I enjoyed the early party scenes the most. It was like a modern day version of those old Hollywood movies featuring all star casts. Spotting all the celebrity cameos is part of the fun.
The main group of six guys clearly all share a bond and similar senses of humor (not to mention illicit drug use and massive alcohol consumption). They have all worked together frequently and they effortlessly generate a believable camaraderie that manages to work in the context of the story but also seems real. Rogen and Baruchel are the nominal stars, although I found them to be the least funny “characters” in the movie.
Some of the shocks are funny. Michael Cera getting freaky with two women in a bathroom is worth a guffaw, as was Channing Tatum's appearance as Danny McBride's submissive sex slave. Other jokes don't work so well. Jonah Hill's possession by a demon, for example, felt stale. The punchline satirizes The Exorcist where the priest repeats, “The power of Christ compels you.” Hill responds, “It's not that compelling.” Unfortunately the same can be said of that scene and it goes on too long.
Yeah Scott, This Is the End would definitely work better as a short. Or at the very least I second your idea that they should have trimmed it down to an hour and a half. Despite moments of audacious hilarity sprinkled throughout, This Is the End runs out of jokes long before the Backstreet Boys perform in heaven.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures (2013)