This is the End

Cast:
Seth Rogen as Seth Rogen
Jay Baruchel as Jay Baruchel
James Franco as James Franco
Jonah Hill as Jonah Hill
Danny McBride as Danny McBride
Craig Robinson as Craig Robinson
Michael Cera as Michael Cera
Emma Watson as Emma Watson
Mindy Kaling as Mindy Kaling
David Krumholtz as David Krumholtz
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Rihanna as Rihanna
Martin Starr as Martin Starr
Kevin Hart as Kevin Hart
Aziz Ansari as Aziz Ansari

Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

Story:
Jay Baruchel has come to Los Angeles to hang with his friend Seth Rogen, but after playing video games and smoking pot for a few hours, Seth convinces him to attend a housewarming party at James Franco’s house. Once there, all hell literally breaks loose as the Apocalypse has hit the Hollywood Hills, killing everyone at the party except for Jay, Seth, Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson. And that’s when Danny McBride shows up.

Analysis:
The concept couldn’t be simpler: Round up all your friends and anyone else around you and make a movie. That’s what Joss Whedon just did with “Much Ado About Nothing,” but he made that at his house on a shoestring budget with a screenplay already written by Mr. Bill Shakespeare. Wimp.

For Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut, they decided to go big or go home, which meant it was time to make a movie that had been gestating for years based around the idea within the title “Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse,” a premise that becomes greatly expanded in “This is the End” with the addition of four more of Rogen/Goldberg’s close associates: James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill. Throw all of them into a full-scale recreation of the Apocalypse, and suddenly you have a survivors’ comedy unlike anything you’re likely to see this decade.

The movie still begins and ends with Jay and Seth, long-time Canadian pals trying to bond despite Seth having comfortably settled into his L.A. lifestyle, something that Jay is hesitant to embrace, especially in the form of James Franco’s debaucherous partying lifestyle. Before things go too far, literally all hell breaks loose as a sinkhole opens up in Franco’s backyard sucking in most of the party guests leaving a small group of five inside his house trying to figure out what is happening and how they’re going to survive.

The fact that Rogen and Goldberg have worked with most of these guys for so long allows them to play up to their strengths while also knowing how far to push them in order to make the most fun out of their quirks and personalities. (For instance, Hill plays completely opposite his rep of being difficult by being ridiculously nice almost the entire movie, proving why he, like Franco, has an Oscar nomination under his belt.) Wisely, Rogen takes somewhat of a backseat in order to co-direct and lets the rest of the guys take the spotlight with some of the funniest bits capitalizing on the dysfunctional relationships between the various members of the group including Franco’s passive-aggressive obsession with Rogen and McBride and Jonah Hill’s uncomfortable attempts to bond with Jay.

However you cut it, this is more or less Jay Baruchel’s movie because he’s the heart and soul of the story and its still about him trying to reconnect with his friend Seth, but when Danny McBride shows up, he literally steals the movie with some of his funniest antics so far. McBride is the movie’s secret weapon that elevates it to something beyond just a bunch of friends hanging out and trying to survive. Franco also seems to relish poking fun at all the different myths about his own personality, letting all his friends take shots at him and not worrying too much about what might stick as fact.

Some bits work better than others, but that’s likely par for the course when you have as many ideas as Rogen and Goldberg pile into the film’s relatively short run time. Heck, sometimes even just the logistics of getting all these actors together into one place is quite an achievement on the part of Rogen/Goldberg. Granted, you’ll really have to like the kind of humor these guys normally do to be able to fully appreciate the movie, but there’s more than enough variety that it’s not just stoner or masturbation humor although that’s also in semi-unhealthy supply.

As the Apocalypse starts to get out of control, the story starts to move out of the Franco house and that’s when we start seeing more impressive set pieces featuring fiery demonic creatures, which gives the production values an impressive boost for the otherwise relatively low-fi movie.

After taking things so far, Rogen/Goldberg could have easily copped out–made it all a stoner dream or something to that effect–but instead they take it to the craziest possible conclusion and the ending is actually surprising satisfying even if we’ve seen this sort of ending more than a few times before.

Along the way, there are lots of clever and amusing surprises that we’re not going to spoil except we will say that anyone who has been clamoring for a “Superbad” reunion or a “Pineapple Express” sequel, you kind of get your wishÂ… whether you want it or not.

The Bottom Line:
Easily one of the craziest movies you’ll see this summer–certainly the craziest one released by a major studio–Rogen and Goldberg make an impressive directorial debut that offers more than enough laughs and entertainment value you have to give them more than a little credit for what they’re able to pull off and get away with.

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