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“This is the End” is an Entertaining Look at Friendship Between Celebrities

June 17, 2013

By John C.

This is the End PosterSeth Rogen and Jay Baruchel struggle to make it through the religious Apocalypse while staying at James Franco’s house in This is the End, an outrageous comedy that provides a lot of laughs while offering a believable look at male friendship.  The film opened last Wednesday.

With a cast of hilarious actors all playing themselves, and an amusing role for the wonderful Emma Watson, this is an insanely self referential horror comedy that works in surprising ways, from the big budget special effects to the character driven set pieces.

When the movie starts, Jay Baruchel meets his friend Seth Rogen at the airport in Los Angeles, looking forward to a couple of days spent getting high and playing video games.  But Seth drags him to a party at James Franco’s house that Jay couldn’t care less about, a gathering of familiar faces where they meet up with Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson.  Then the ground is shook by an earthquake and all sorts of crazy things start to happen, with people being raptured up into the skies and rampant destruction on a massive scale.  This is the Apocalypse, and these celebrities are forced to deal with their differences and spend the end of days at James Franco’s artfully constructed house.

Because the actors are all playing versions of themselves, the interactions between them are always entertaining and provide some of the most interesting moments.  Seth Rogen seems to want everyone to get along, and Jay Baruchel is trying to restore the close friendship that they used to have growing up in Canada.  But James Franco comes between them, and would do anything to impress his Pineapple Express co-star.  Jonah Hill likes to come across as the nicest guy in the room, but we also sense that there is something else brewing beneath the surface, from his condescendingly nice tone with Jay Baruchel.  Craig Robinson is often just trying to keep the mood light, but numerous arguments breakout between all of them.

Many of them seem like genuinely nice guys offscreen, but the actors don’t always come across like they probably do in real life.  Although Danny McBride wasn’t even invited, he is the sixth stowaway at the house, and the source of much of their fighting.  He is the loosest cannon of the bunch, providing some of the most offbeat scenes with a style of humour that is sometimes even darker than the rest of them.  There are appearances from plenty of recognizable celebrities, including Michael Cera, and it’s kind of fearless for the actor to play such an unlikeable and drugged out version of himself.  Emma Watson is essentially playing up her Hermione Granger persona, and she knocks it out of the park in her few scenes.

Written and directed by Seth Rogen and his childhood friend Evan Goldberg, there is a free flowing quality to the script that allows for plenty of improv between the cast members.  There are amusing plays on everything from “Gangnam Style” to The Excorist, and numerous references to many of the movies that made the actors well known in the first place, which adds to the meta experience of everything that is happening.  Although a couple of the grossest scenes take things to the boundaries of good taste and this comedy isn’t for the easily offended, This is the End strikes a tone that is always entertaining for those of us who appreciate raunchy humour.  There is even some suspense to go along with the dark premise.

The film also has something honest and believable to say about male friendship, which can be filled with backstabbing and jealousy, even if most guys don’t want to admit it.  There are also some surprisingly intelligent ideas about faith and religious belief, including a couple of touching moments when they take note of what is happening around them and how it changes their ideas about a higher power.  Having already brought in a respectable amount of money at the box office in the shadow of the record breaking Man of Steel, this seems like a future cult classic in the making and should continue to do well in theatres throughout the summer.

By the time we reach the strangely uplifting final scene of This is the End, which works in ways that I wouldn’t even think of spoiling here, I couldn’t help but have a big smile on my face.  The last few songs on the soundtrack are all used in stellar ways, leading up to a finale that is not just hilarious, but also immensely satisfying.  Although not for the easily offended, This is the End provides a thoroughly entertaining and often very funny look at friendship and the end of days, with a cast of hilarious actors all finding inventive ways to play themselves.

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