Review: This Is the End (2013)


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.

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16 Responses to Review: This Is the End (2013)

  1. Dan Heaton says:

    I had heard good things when This is the End came out in the theaters, but I skipped it because I wasn’t convinced it would work. I also had Franco and Rogen fatigue. I was amazed by how funny it was, especially the first hour. I do feel like it lost steam near the end, but the final scene in heaven nearly made up for it. I agree that there’s a certain sweetness to the movie that I did not expect.

    • sheila says:

      I had some fatigue with this crowd as well – but I heard enough good and intriguing things that I had to check it out. So happily surprised by it! Yes, so so funny in that first hour – and almost Woody Allen-ish in its devotion to the tiny ins-and-outs of awkward moments between friends who have known each other a long time. It’s really quite honest, I thought – didn’t you? Even though they’re all playing exaggerated versions of themselves.

      I agree that it lost a bit of steam – but not enough to taint the whole. That ending! I mean, what? And it worked!

      I love it when stuff works. :)

      Thanks for your comment, Dan!

      • sheila says:

        When Seth Rogen refers to “127 Hours” as “27 Hours”? hahaha And Franco corrects him quietly.

        Loved Franco with the gun – never letting go of the gun for the majority of the film. And McBride, in general.

  2. Brendan says:

    One of the most fun times I’ve ever had in a movie theater. The crowd became one organism. That screenplay deserves an Oscar. NOT KIDDING. No stone left unturned.

    • sheila says:

      Bren – // The crowd became one organism. //

      Goosebumps! I love it when that happens! I wish I had seen it in the theatre.

  3. Todd Restler says:

    I loved this one too! The whole movie is great, but the first 20 or so minutes, pre-apocalypse, are just amazing. I know they needed the “hook” of the end of the world scenario, but if the whole movie was just the party at Franco’s that would have been fine with me.

    Michael Cera should have gotten an Oscar nomination, I mean that. His willingness to portray himself that way deserves tons of respect. “Hi Jay, do you need to use the toilet honey?”

    They all deserve respect for that manner. I mean, Jonah Hill was just such a DICK! “Weed is tight, weed is tight!”…”Umm, guys, the thing is, I kind of NEED the Milkey Way”. “They’ll save Clooney, Bullock, me, if there’s room you guys!” “Dear God, it’s me, Jonah Hill… from Moneyball.”

    And his reaction to the ” Rosemary’s Baby” scene was priceless…..” (long pause) ummmm, something not very chill happened last night”.

    This movie was flat out hilarious, and is just “Bonkers”, to quote Rogan. I’ve seen actors playing “asshole” versions of themselves on Larry Sanders and Curb before, of course, and maybe in a movie cameo, but I can’t think of another movie that took this approach as the backbone of the film. Big risk, huge reward.

    I think the title also refers to the cast declaring an end, at least for now, to the “Apatow” buddy movies they have all been in together in as meta a way as possible. Apatow’s movie currently in production stars none of these guys.

    • sheila says:

      // “Dear God, it’s me, Jonah Hill… from Moneyball.” //


      It reminded me a little bit of what Ricky Gervais did in Extras (Ben Stiller’s cameo is one for the books!! But everyone who did a cameo in that – Bowie – DeNiro – Kate Winslet – all of them presented as the biggest assholes who have ever lived – so satisfying!)

      • sheila says:

        Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Daniel Radcliffe as this sleazy precocious sex maniac – … I mean, the list goes on and on.

    • sheila says:

      // I think the title also refers to the cast declaring an end, at least for now, to the “Apatow” buddy movies they have all been in together in as meta a way as possible. //

      God, I hope so. I’ve had it up to here with Apatow.

  4. Todd Restler says:

    Never watched Extras, but I know I will love it if I see it. Yeah, TV shows have used this approach before, but I can’t think of another feature that did it for the duration. Ballsy and original.

    • sheila says:

      Right, you might have someone show up in an exaggerated cameo, but not have to sustain it for the whole thing.

      This could have been so obnoxious and self-referential, but it wasn’t. Kind of a miracle, really – I totally enjoyed it.

  5. Todd Restler says:

    So many good lines, I agree the movie is a kind of miracle, it could easily have been annoying instead of endearing, the cast’s willingness to do pretty much ANYTHING was revelatory.

    • sheila says:

      And it didn’t feel like the whole thing was improv – the way Apatow’s films often do. There was a really good underlying structure there.

  6. Todd Restler says:

    Yup, great screenplay as Brendan said. Very inventive, and the movie has a soul, it’s not JUST really funny. And how about Rogan’s apartment, the definition of a succesful stoner slacker den! This is one of those that when it is on I have a hard time not watching it.

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