Rife with marijuana consumption and dick jokes, Seth Rogen’s first directing credit This Is The End (shared with fellow debutante Evan Goldberg) goes a long way to correcting his spotty script-writing curriculum vitae (Pineapple Express, The Watch). By no means is it a stretch from the usual product he puts his name to—one doesn’t imagine Rogen doing high drama for another decade—but this time around it’s surprisingly his best effort yet. Rogen, as does the entire cast of Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, James Franco and Craig Robinson (plus a slew of hilarious guest appearances, especially Michael Cera’s against-type) plays a version of their public persona: all of the credits list their actual names. They’re all partying inside Franco’s new house when Burachel and Rogen leave to get cigarettes and they pay witness to the beginning of the end of the world. From there, it’s a fight for survival and a battle to determine who will eat the last Milky Way.
The sheer meta-ness of the whole adventure manages to stay firmly in the realm of self-deprecation and, as Ricky Gervais’ only successful role in Extras would shout, “He’s ‘avin a laugh!” Franco exudes a sultry playboy role (it’s his house) but it’s okay because McBride calls him a “nerd” later on and there’s even a brief moment dedicated to his awful attempt at, dare I say it, art: ‘Seth Rogen’ and ‘James Franco’ are written on a canvas with literally nothing else in accompaniment.
This Is The End is more than just weed and dicks though. There’s a particular love spread throughout the 107 minutes that has been missing from the latest comedies, especially the man who was meant to reinvent the genre, Judd Apatow. As Adam Sandler sprayed at Seth Rogen in Funny People, “Is your whole act designed to make sure no girl will ever sleep with you again?” this movie takes the worst parts of each person and develops it into something that you love about them (Jonah Hill prays to God by saying, “Hi, it’s Jonah Hill from Moneyball.”) Absent is the meanness that ruled Funny People and Hangover 3 and it’s replaced with a nod to the importance of friendship and family and masturbation over Franco’s artworks.
Make no mistake; this is strictly for guys. Women make casual, but limited, appearances throughout but it’s for no reason other than the theme of brotherhood. The notion of women and sex is even approached during a great scene with Emma Watson, though they’re not aware she can hear everything being said about her.
Right now a glut of apocalyptic titles depicting some kind of Armageddon rule the cinema: World War Z, After Earth, Oblivion. Whether it be a cash-in on the nothing that was the Mayan apocalypse or everyone in Hollywood just happened to have the same idea at the same time (what a crazy coincidence!), according to cinema we’re all going to die at some point and be reborn as... well, you name it. This plays as a nice little b-side (or a-side, depending on what you think of those films) to this recent trend, just as Clerks did to the counter-culture of the early 90s.
Considering the majority of the film is shot within the confines of Franco’s house, there’s nary a dull moment to be found. The men draw the burnt match to see who has to venture outside into the hellfire to get more water and be greeted with the nastiest of surprises. For a standard one-set comedy they’ve wisely pushed for the $32m budget to make the satanic spawn effective without being too horrific: one creature shares a rather well-endowed nod to The Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan. The end of the second act wavers a tiny bit and the ending doesn’t make any sense at all but otherwise it is strong all round.
Rogen and Goldberg know a lot of people in Hollywood and everyone is out to celebrate the end of the world with them in style. But this is the Rogen hour: he came to Hollywood to star in a Kevin Smith movie and after achieving such a thing, he now wants to be Kevin Smith, though one feels he will keep the Christianity in a box labelled ‘Only For Punch Lines.’ This isn’t like a Smith film per se—the budget is too high for starters, plus CGI—rather it’s Rogen’s version of an early Smith film. 19 years ago Silent Bob exercised Dante in the importance of cherishing those that love you. Rogen similarly cares about the welfare of others and, one feels, genuinely wants people to be happy. If he keeps up this standard, he has a great directing/writing career ahead of him.
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire