The Apocalypse has never been this much fun!
This is the End does to raunchy comedies what The Cabin in the Woods did to horror films. It's a slick, subversive, wholly vulgar film that embraces its roots and emphasizes on the crudeness its actors are known to amplify. And amplify they do; this is one of the raunchiest films I've seen this year and also one of the funniest.
This has been a bad year for comedies; there's simply no other way to slice it. Mainstream comedies suffer from the "maximum antics, minimum laughter" formula, and all of them seem to take on over one-hundred minutes with only roughly fifty minutes of solid material. Just a few days ago I reviewed Rapture-Palooza, a dead-in-the-water comedy about the apocalypse and a young couple defeating the Anti-Christ. That film's obsession with vulgarity and raunchiness way senseless and gratuitous. It could be said that This is the End features vulgarity that is gratuitous as well, but it certainly makes better use of it and finds a way to incorporate the excessive swearing to great comedic effect. Rapture-Palooza did it in a way that felt like a group of twelve year olds that just found out a slew of four-letter words.
The film's story is basic, but viable; it stars Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson (who was unfortunately victim to both Peeples and the aforementioned Rapture-Palooza this year, and Danny McBride who join James Franco's lavish home for a house-warming party. All the actors play simplified, egotistical versions of themselves as they party the night away along with many other actors from Michael Cera to Rihanna. Out of the blue, the Apocalypse sets in, sinkholes form, things explode, etc, and the group of actors find themselves stranded and left to fight for themselves in the face of chaos and violence.
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Many of us have likely seen some of these actors in other films. Seeing them all together, not playing characters, but themselves (regardless of how unrealistic they are) is simply a terrific concept. Similar to, yes, The Avengers, the large group of comedians joining each other on-screen feels welcoming and pleasant, but also slightly contentious as they seem to try and one-up each other constantly. Not to mention, they are a boiling-pot of narcissists, which shockingly works at the comic flame of writers Rogen and Evan Goldberg. I just hope we're laughing at stupid archetypes and not authentic portrayals.
One catch with the film that didn't seem to be marketed in the trailer is that this is a film lover's film. This is a picture that is very self-referential and extremely satisfying to someone who has followed mainstream comedies in the last six or seven years. The references to movies past, the brought-up possibilities of sequels, the hilarious banter between cast members, and the terrific in-jokes only some of the audience will understand truly make this a fanboy's comedy. As someone who has paid close attention to comedies of the last few years - what with the huge rise and success of R-rated comedies that pack in hilarity and humanity - this was an enormous delight.
And the talent certainly helps too. The always likable Seth Rogen and James Franco play terrific goofball stoners, the underrated Jay Baruchel does some great work with his outgunned/inferiority-conflict, Jonah Hill never disappoints as usual, Craig Robinson, finally, is recognized as the fun and lively comedic talent he is, and Danny McBride is simply hilarious in the role of the lame-brained slacker who can't do right. In addition, cameos by Michael Cera as a sex/coke addict and Rihanna are a laugh-riot.
Ultimately, the excursion is rewarding and fun. Its two hour run time may seem flabby, especially considering when the apocalypse starts to really ruin the lives of the main cast it becomes a bit humorless and redundant, but the dry sections are mere minutes while the laughs are uproarious and surprisingly constant. Directors Rogen and Evan Goldberg (writers/directors of Superbad) brilliantly hold their ground and balance everyone's comedic talent wonderfully. The entire product is light years more durable and serviceable than the average Apocalyptic-fare. I think the second people I'd want to spend the apocalypse with besides my family are these guys.
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, and Kevin Hart. Directed by: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Reviewed by Steve Pulaski
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