In an odd way, This is the End is the most self-aware comedy in years.
The 400-Word Review: This Is the End
By Sean Collier
June 17, 2013
The previous generation of on-screen comic talents seemed unaware that they were always playing themselves. Will Ferrell fancies himself a chameleon, but the degrees of separation between Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy are non-existent; Jack Black might as well have played Tenacious D tunes in most of his movies, even though it really seemed like he wanted to escape himself.
The same is certainly true for Seth Rogen, James Franco and crew. They’ve become unlikely draws of their own, so when making an odd script into a feature, why bother with characters? Jonah Hill will be cast as Jonah Hill, Danny McBride as Danny McBride, and so on.
It’s the same reason why “SNL” brings in surprise guests only to play themselves; in a certain brand of comedy, seeing the celebrity do something absurd is funnier than seeing an actor do it. And that’s the conceit of This Is the End, which drops the apocalypse in the middle of an L.A. party.
Jay Baruchel is visiting Rogen for the weekend; he complains of a distaste for the L.A. scene and a particular hatred for Hill. Rogen drags him to a throwdown at Franco’s house anyway, with the likes of Rihanna, Jason Segel and Michael Cera wandering about; when an earthquake hits, the group dashes outside just in time to be swallowed up by a sinkhole.
Franco, Rogen, Hill, Baruchel, and Craig Robinson are the only ones who make it back inside. (McBride was passed out in a bathtub upstairs.) The crew struggles to survive as the egos of Hollywood’s funniest people — or outsized versions of themselves, anyway — collide.
It’s mostly funny, and an engaging enough premise to minimize the impact of the missed jokes. The biggest flaw is the exclusion of even a single actress among the central survivors; while I wouldn’t want to see any of the six excised, it’s a shame that Mindy Kaling and Emma Watson, both briefly in the film, couldn’t be given more to do. (Or Ellie Kemper, or Gillian Jacobs, or any of the other infinitely talented and funny actresses working in the same circles as these boys.)
Other than that complaint, it’s light and undoubtedly indulgent, but refreshingly original and honest. If you can’t laugh at This is the End, you’re just too cranky.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark