This is The End

© 2013 Ray Wong

Once in a while you come across an idea that is so brilliantly absurd that you get all excited about it. How the execution comes along is another matter, but for high concepts, This is The End -- an apocalyptic tale centered around a bunch of self-absorbed "real" Hollywood actors -- is pure gold.

When Jay Baruchel visits Seth Rogen in Los Angeles after a long time apart, Seth invites Jay to come along to James Franco's housewarming party. At the party, Jay feels uncomfortable because he doesn't like Seth's friends such as James, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, and he outright hates Jonah Hill. He finds an opportunity to ask Seth with him to get a pack of cigarette, so he can express his discomfort to Seth.

At the convenience store, a calamity happens and Jay witnesses something otherworldly. They returns to James' mansion trying to warn everybody, but it's too late. When everyone rushes out, they are either struck by something or get sucked into a giant sink hole in the ground. Jay, Seth and the other guys find refuge back in James' house, trying to figure what is happening.

With little food and water, the friends begin to turn on each other. When an invited guest, Danny McBride, shows up, the tension gets even worse. Eventually Jay figures that what they're experiencing is the apocalypse, as described in the Book of Revelation. The world is going to end and every one will die, and that means each of them must redeem himself before he could be received into heaven, or forever be condemned to Hell. As the men bicker and fight and try to survive, could they learn their lessons and redeem themselves in time for Rapture?

All the main actors play versions of themselves -- much exaggerated and warped versions. James Franco (Oz the Great and Powerful) plays himself as an obnoxious prick who seems to be secretly in love with Seth Rogen. Seth (The Guilt Trip) pokes fun of his own stoner persona and lukewarm career. Jonah Hill (The Moneyball) is surprisingly subtle by playing himself as a conniving twit. Jay Baruchel (Cosmopolis) probably plays his character the closest to his true self -- a naive, nervous actor who doesn't fit in.

Craig Robinson (Peeples) plays up his teddy bear persona by adding a little raunch and nastiness. Danny McBride (Your Highness) fully takes advantage of his obnoxious on-screen persona by giving us a full-on asshole that we'd love to hate.

There are too many cameos to mention. Michael Cera (The End of Love) possibly has the best role in his life by playing himself as a drug-abusing, sex-crazed loudmouth. Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) plays herself a slight variation of her persona mixed with her characterization of Hermione. Other notable cameos include Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum (in a hilarious, spit-inducing cameo), and Aziz Ansari.

The screenplay by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen builds upon the high concept: How would a bunch of self-absorbed Hollywood actors behave during the end of days.  The genius that comes about is not the story or the plot, but by allowing the actors to play an altered version of themselves and the relationships among one another. According to Seth Rogen, 50% of the movie is improvised. And according to Even Goldberg, he tries to push the actors' buttons by asking them to do the most outrageous feats. The result is evident on screen. The story itself follows a rather simplistic "end of the world" disaster movie path, probably somewhat too heavy-handed in the Biblical interpretation of the apocalypse. I wish they would scale that down (it's a distraction to me) and focus more on the characters.

The movie works best when it allows the actors to play off one another. James Franco has great chemistry with everyone, especially Seth Rogen. His one scene with Danny McBride (you will know which scene I'm referring to) is awe-inspiring -- I have no idea how the actors can keep a straight face. There are plenty of raunchy and nasty jokes to go around (bodily fluids, potty jokes, sex humor, homosexual references, etc.) and they work, albeit sometimes mindless and sophomoric, because of the chemistry between the actors. We've come to love these comedic actors' onscreen personas, so to see them mesh these personas with their "reality" is a treat in itself.

The ending is somewhat too cheeky for my taste -- I'd prefer something darker, to keep with the tone of the movie (granted, it is a broad comedy). And parts of the movie drags, and some of the jokes fall flat. Still over all, the movie is a laugh-a-minute romp that if you don't take things too seriously, you will enjoy it immensely.

Stars: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson
Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen (based on Jason Stone's short film Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse)
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Distributor: Universal
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sexuality
Running Time: 126 minutes


Script - 7
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 7.2 out of 10.0 

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