Although the plot is expectedly absurd and dismally present, it offers plenty of laughs and high-spirited fun during moments of stagnation with neon hued drug effects, enactments of fictional sequels, verbal confrontations over magazine entitlement and (not so) private video confessionals.
Jay Baruchel arrives in L.A. and meets up with pal Seth Rogen. When Seth gets invited to James Franco's house party, he drags along a reluctant Jay who doesn't want to mingle with other Hollywood-ians - especially not the insufferably affectionate Jonah Hill. All is going well; blunts are shared, Craig Robinson starts singing "Take Yo Panties Off," and the value of phallic art is appreciated. But when mysterious phenomena occurs, some of the party-goers lock themselves up in James' house. As they try to clarify the events that are taking place, they learn a lot about one another and how their life-styles have contributed to their predicament.
The party in the film brings together many familiar faces from past comedies and a few famous names, such as Rihanna and Emma Watson.
If This is the End brings to mind a Judd Apatow film, it's because it contains almost every major actor Apatow has worked in his past few films.** The only, yet quite noticeable, difference is a lack of a well-structured story in the former's case.
To say that this is where the film blunders is to erroneously underestimate writer/director team Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's - and the rest of the cast, especially - talent. Such as in many of Apatow's films, Rogen's comedic craft works best in an environment where improvisation and meta-humor drive the film, rather than the script.
Whether the actors stuck to a very authentic-feeling script or were allowed to ad-lib (which seems like the most likely case), the humor felt fresh and the characters catered to the actors' both on and off-screen persona.
The film makes reference to Rogen and Franco's early career on Freaks and Geeks (which Apatow directed and wrote a few episodes), with wall art of the series in Franco's home and a deep-rooted friendship between the two that visibly bothers Jay throughout the film.
Seeing Baruchel step up to the forefront of the group he usually blends into was a refreshing change, if, however, not as compelling to watch as some of his co-stars.
Most notable was watching Franco play a vain, materially-oriented version of himself. Most of us have heard a story or two of Franco coming off as self-absorbed. Seeing him take on this version of himself was an appreciated gesture.
Danny McBride offered the same profanity-spewing, (most) immoral character of the bunch. His magazine hogging ways may not have been that different from past roles, but his cocky rebuttals were arguably some of the best lines in the film.
Also worth mentioning are Jonah Hill and Michael Cera for playing characters we're not used to seeing. Hill for not reverting back to his pompous, (although fake) Hollywood elite attitude (like he did when he hosted SNL earlier this year) and Cera for departing from his polite, good-guy image and playing a memorable drug-using party boy (Caprisun anyone?)
However, without the hilarity of such moments the film would collapse on a barely-there plot and over-the-top theme given the realist approach from the actors to such events.
It's not the conventional story-line we're used to seeing from some of Apatow's films - and the sharing of actors is the only cause of comparison - but the laughs it elicits are in the same ball park.
Seth Rogen returns to the director's chair, alongside longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg (who made his directorial debut with this film) who co-wrote and co-directed with Rogen.
The duo previously worked on films, such as The Watch, The Green Hornet, Pineapple Express, Superbad and the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy series Da Ali G Show together.
The film also stars Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kevin Hart, David Krumholtz, Martin Starr, Jason Segel and others.
This is the End is not for everyone. It caters to a sharp-witted, young demographic that's old enough to know a show like Freaks and Geeks existed, but young enough to still laugh at celebrated male body parts. For anyone who lands as an outlier of this targeted audience, it's at least worth checking out.
*Although The Hangover Part III has already earned over $275 million worldwide, according to boxofficemojo.com, since its release last month, it has earned dismal praise from both critics and fans. The film has a critic rating of 20 percent on rottentomatoes.com and an average of 6/10 star rating on IMDb.com. Currently, This is the End has an average of 8/10 star rating on IMDb.com, an 84 percent critic rating on rottentomatoes.com and, most importantly, a B from this amateur critic.
** For fun, here is a list of Judd Apatow films (directed, written, created, produced, etc.) and other projects This is the End actors have co-starred in:
- Freaks and Geeks: Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and James Franco.
- Undeclared: Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Kevin Hart and David Krumholtz.
- The 40-year-old Virgin: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Mindy Kaling and Kevin Hart.
- Knocked Up: Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, Craig Robinson and James Franco.
- Superbad: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen, David Krumholtz, Martin Starr and Danny McBride.
- Pineapple Express: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson.
- Funny People: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Aziz Ansari.