Hilarious. Thought-provoking. Self-aware. But also with an undercurrent of true worry, a gnawing and growing awareness of “How do we live a good life? How do we be good people?” It is truly concerned about these things. This Is the End could so easily have felt like an inside joke, or just an excuse for a bunch of good friends to make a movie. One of those things where you think, “God, it must have been so much fun to make that. Too bad it’s not fun to watch it.” But This Is the End is fun and entertaining and sweet (sweet? Yes!!) and ridiculous and deep, from moment to moment to moment.
The film is out of its mind.
The end of the world erupts out of nowhere one night, when Seth Rogen and his buddies are all partying at James Franco’s house. Explosions. The sky opens up. Chaos. Destruction from the sky. A sinkhole opens up outside James Franco’s ridiculous house and swallows up the young celebrity set of Hollywood, gathered there for a party: Mindy Kaling bites it. Michael Cera plunges to his death. Kevin Hart dies. Rihanna falls into the pit. Jason Segel dies. Everyone dies, except for James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride (my fantasy husband, my ideal man, just FYI), and Emma Watson. Hollywood Hills is in flames. Strange clawed beasts stalk the land.
The survivors hole up in Franco’s house (Baruchel’s first comment when he sees Franco’s house: “Who does he think he is? Pablo Escobar?”), dole out food, make video confessions, curl up in bed together when they’re scared, descend into Lord of the Flies-type fighting, problem-solve, scream, work on their relationships, and have to come to terms with what it means to be brave.
I can’t believe the whole thing works as well as it does. I kept waiting for it to derail. Not consciously, but it was there: will this continue to work? Will this mood hold? It does. It holds beautifully.
All of the performances are great, they’re all playing exaggerated and craven versions of themselves (Michael Cera’s version of himself is especially hilarious, as well as his gruesome death, which I laughed at throughout). In This Is the End James Franco idolizes Seth Rogen to such a degree that he has had two paintings made, one of his name, and one of Seth’s name, to hang in his main room. Seth looks up at it, and James looks at Seth eagerly. Seth is uncomfortable but James is so eager for praise that he has to say, “Wow, man. That’s… really cool.” Jonah Hill idolizes Jay Baruchel, even though Jay Baruchel is visibly uncomfortable with the entire group, and doesn’t understand why Jonah Hill is being so nice to him. What’s Hill’s angle? No one is that nice, right? Seth Rogen wants all his different groups of friends to get along. Craig Robinson is the nicest guy ever. Jonah Hill turns on Jay Baruchel and ends up privately praying to God, asking him what the hell he was thinking on the day he created Jay Baruchel.
But they have to put aside their petty disagreements in order to, you know, survive the ensuing apocalypse.
Emma Watson gets separated from the group in the beginning and then hacks her way into Franco’s house with an axe, demanding shelter. The guys are all thrilled to see she is safe, but also concerned, because now they have to re-divide the food into smaller portions. They look at each other. Dammit, will there be enough water for all of us now? Jay Baruchel pulls the guys aside and tries to bring up the fact that she’s a female, and they’re all guys, so “we just should be mindful of that …” and all of the rest of them are baffled, like, “What are you talking about? She’s our friend. Mindful of what?” Jay: “I’m just saying … we should be sensitive to how she might be thinking … so let’s not be … rapey or whatever …” They all explode: “WOAH. WHAT?” “Nobody here is being rapey but you.” “I wasn’t even thinking rapey thoughts about her but now I am because of you.” “Nobody’s raping anyone here.” And on and on. Emma Watson overhears their whispered conversation and proceeds to attack all of them with her axe, before fleeing into the burning Hollywood Hills: she’d rather be out there than in Franco’s house with her FRIENDS who all appear to be discussing whether or not to RAPE her. (It’s yet another example – Neighbors being another recent one – of how a rape joke can be freakin’ hilarious if it’s done right.)
And any movie that has Jonah Hill chained to a bed, speaking in a demonic voice, all as Jay Baruchel stands over him, hoodie on, holding up a cross made up of tied-together spatulas, shouting, “THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU” is a-okay by me. Not to mention a crazy cameo by Channing Tatum.
The film is both silly and profound: it’s my favorite combination, and so difficult to accomplish. Nearly impossible. You can get the silliness, and then the profundity feels forced, or you get the profundity and the moments of silliness feel arch, and imposed. This Is the End combines both, beautifully, seamlessly. The ending, which I wouldn’t dream of revealing, is so delightfully loopy and also emotionally connected that I found myself laughing and tearing up at the same time, and also laughing at MYSELF that I was tearing up.
This Is the End was one of my favorite films of 2013.