Review: This is the End

PLOT: Famous friends Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride are all stuck together as they face the end of times.

REVIEW: I'm torn. Not by this movie, which is hilarious and potentially one of the breakout comedy surprises of the year, but by the fact that I don't want to give anything away. The biggest ace up THIS IS THE END's sleeve is its unpredictability. I promise you this movie goes to places you wouldn't imagine. It gets dark. It gets messed up. To reveal anything more than the basic setup would do a disservice to the fun, "anything goes" nature of the flick.

Most everything in this redband trailer happens within the first 20 minutes. The party scene that opens the film is a blast; chock full of very brief but memorable appearances from Apatow vets like Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aziz Ansari, as well as random newcomers Rihanna and Emma Watson. Everyone is pretty self-deprecating (except poor Martin Starr who doesn't get a single line), but it's a coked-out Michael Cera who wins with a legendary self-portrayal not unlike Neil Patrick Harris in HAROLD AND KUMAR. And when things go down and the Earth begins swallowing people up, it's fun to see so many recognizable faces get dispatched in horrible, violent ways.

After that, it's down to business and pretty much the rest of THIS IS THE END takes place in James Franco's house with the six surviving actors coming to terms with the apocalypse and trying to endure in spite of how "soft" they are. The result is essentially what you'd expect: plenty of drug-fueled weirdness, their patented off-the-cuff dialogue, and consistent laughs. The plot is lean at best and most of the substantial second act is just a series of random escalating situations—from discussions about which of them is more likely to be "rapey" to panicked searches for food and water to everyone eventually just getting high and making homemade sequels to their films. And let's just say it goes from there.

Against all odds, THIS IS THE END proves to not be just an excuse for six friends to work together (ala GROWN UPS). Sure, everyone's clearly having fun, but nobody is resting on their laurels (ala GROWN UPS 2). Parts of the movie are ridiculous and stupid, but lovingly so. Some of the jokes rely on shock value (there may be more than one uncomfortable image of a penis), but there are also plenty of creative touches and clever nods to everything from THE EXORCIST to GHOSTBUSTERS and even the gang's own movies. (A FLYBOYS reference? Sure!) It's a balancing act when spending a large amount of time with few characters in a confined space, but writers/directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg pull it off, finding polished ways to break things up both visually and story-wise. There are even a couple decent action beats and effects-heavy scenes.

Most of the fun comes from the fact that these guys are playing themselves as immature spoiled actors and if you're longtime fans of theirs, it's even better. (Franco continually referring to himself and Rogen as "Freaks" put a smile on my face.) Everyone's willing to poke fun at heightened versions of their on-screen personas—Rogen the stoner, Franco the artsy serious actor, Baruchel the Canadian outsider, Robinson the panty dropper, Hill the gunsmith, McBride the self-involved dick who's obsessed with anal sex—but with a glimmer of sincerity behind it. There's more than one instance that addresses how they've all dealt with celebrity—who's changed over the years, who's sold out, etc. (At one point, a paparazzo says to Rogen, "You play the same guy in every movie, right?") What's important is that their chemistry together has never been better, with each actor getting their moment to shine, even in some not-so-pleasant ways. And as with the original JAY AND SETH VS. THE APOCALPYSE short, Rogen and Baruchel are still the heart of the story. If there's any grounding factor to the complete insanity that goes on here, it's their friendship.

Obviously, if you're already not a fan of these actors and their style of "stoner" comedy, then this is not the movie to convince you otherwise. But if you love PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, SUPERBAD or the non-Katherine Heigl parts of KNOCKED UP, it's a safe bet you'll really enjoy THIS IS THE END. There are so many memorable moments or quotable lines I'd like to mention, but I'll let you experience them for yourself.

And I'm calling it now: THIS IS THE END has the best cameo of 2013. Don't let anyone ruin it for you.

Review: This is the End




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