Hollywood's neo-brat pack party through the apocalypse in this screwball disaster movie.
So this is how it ends. Not with a bang, but with knob jokes and a Rihanna cameo. That’s the ethos underpinning stoner comedy This Is The End, a cheerfully crass, enjoyably puerile entertainment that doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel as much as it blows the barrel to pieces with a sawn-off shotgun.
Essentially a saucy, self-referential take on the End Of Days (the biblical catastrophe, not the Satanic Arnie shooter), the film lacks the ambition of The League of Gentleman's Apocalypse, or the sheer earnestness of last year's underrated Seeking A Friend For the End of the World. Instead, it’s like a stag weekend in Ibiza: loud, laddish and fixated on bodily fluids.
The film is intermittently hilarious: Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, here making their directorial debut, throw so many gags at the wall that enough of them inevitably stick (an extended riff about a certain '90s boy band pays off beautifully.) And there's undoubtedly a cheeky thrill in seeing some of comedy's great and good sending themselves up with such brio.
The main story device (the entire cast play terrible versions of their real life selves) is ingenious and irritating in equal measure. Jay Baruchel is Jay Baruchel, an East Coast actor who takes a trip to LA in order to visit his friend and colleague Seth Rogen (played by, yes, Seth Rogen). Within moments of his arrival, Rogen invites Jay to the housewarming of serious actor/director/artist/all-round Renaissance man, James Franco (er, James Franco). Inevitably, the soiree turns out to be a sordid, coked-up affair, jam-packed with spoiled Hollywood B-listers getting their rocks off like there's no tomorrow.
The hapless Rogen and Barushel slip out of the shindig to buy cigarettes and instead find themselves in the middle of an unexplained cosmic event. Gigantic blue beams of light pierce the atmosphere, hurtling countless number of unsuspecting Californians towards the heavens. Is this the Rapture? Sure enough, all hell breaks loose. Our heroes race back towards the Franco residence, lock themselves indoors and ride out the end of the world in a marijuana haze alongside stoner buds Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Franco himself.
It’s all in the worst possible taste. To wit, there’s an extended exchange about masturbation rights within the house, and in one overlong sequence, a member of the cast ends up on the wrong end of some horny demonic beast love. Phallus-based hilarity ensues.
The blokey cast make the most of the film’s flimsy, high-concept premise. Jay Baruchel is a likeable young performer so far ill-served by the Hollywood machine. This offers ample opportunity to show off his easy, lethargic charm. And Rogen and Franco even get to recreate some of their Pineapple Express chemistry, at one point filming their own camcorder sequel in order to pass the time until the inevitable end of all things. If you haven’t seen that film then tough, This is the End has little time for you.
There are sour notes. At one point, Emma Watson shows up ("Hermione stole all our shit!") drawing the crew into a heated debate about the semantics of sexual assault that shocks but never quite justifies itself. It’s an awkward moment. Elsewhere, Danny McBride remains a one-note performer, his obnoxious Eastbound and Down shtick wearing perilously thin at times.
Best in show, however, is Scott Pilgrim star Michael Cera, who appears briefly at the beginning of the film as the worst possible version of Michael Cera imaginable. Re-imagining his indie slacker persona as a sex-crazed, drug-addled brute, he steals the movie so decisively that it never quite recovers.
You know! Those guys! From that thing!
Brings the funny, though you’ll need a rigorous hosing down afterwards.