As you can probably tell by the fact that the bulk of the main cast starred in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s 2008 stoner comedy Pineapple Express, this newest film from the duo – this time with Rogen sharing a director credit as well as a writing credit – is stupid. Terminally, incurably stupid. Indeed, This Is The End is an absurd comedy romp that mines the Christian apocalypse prophecy as laid out in the Book of Revelation (which the movie cites as Revelations, in what is either a smart jab at the frequent misnaming of the book, or just an oversight. I’ll let you decide which is more likely) for situations in which the main characters can smoke weed and talk about sex and shout obscenities at each other.
And it’s really, really funny.
I’ll admit to having really enjoyed Rogen’s previous films in this genre, particularly Pineapple Express, which was a surprisingly well shot comedy that garnered a fairly high number of belly laughs. He’s got his own brand of humor, and I expect that if you’re a fan of that, you’ll love This Is The End, and you don’t need me to convince you to go see it. But if you haven’t been a fan of Rogen’s, or if you’ve been on the fence and have enjoyed them in varying degrees, there’s still a fairly large chance you’ll enjoy this film more than his previous ones.
The conceit of stars playing fictional versions of themselves as they attempt to survive the apocalypse plays out excellently, with much of the film’s humor – despite being very typically Rogen and Goldberg – trending toward smart self-parody. Jabs at the cast’s former work are frequent, and most of them land pretty well, with the cast being remarkably good sports about the whole affair. The most fun with this premise is had in the first twenty minutes, at James Franco’s party, with a much touted Michael Cera appearance, a Superbad cast reunion, a subdued Jason Segel, and Rihanna replying to a request to take off her panties by singing, and the film sells the premise remarkably well during this opening hurrah. Then the Rapture happens, and, of course, none of the partygoers ascend into Heaven, with a large number of them dying rather amusing deaths, leaving only the six main cast members alive in Franco’s house.
The middle act of the film is stellar, with even the predictable story and comedic beats landing well and scoring laughs from the audience. None of the cast manages to be a stand-out, with almost all of them carrying their weight with at least one great scene – though Danny McBride and Jonah Hill are perhaps the most consistently funny – and a number of them had me clutching my stomach in laughter (particularly one in which Franco and McBride argue about the defacement of a magazine). The film moves along at a brisk pace, never languishing just to make more jokes, but rather keeping its plot advancing constantly, and never letting a comedy bit overstay its welcome. It gets a bit long in the tooth toward the end, as they’ve been in the house for around an hour and fifteen minutes of screentime, before the bombastic third act brings the “action” part of the action-comedy descriptor.
That third act, though a bit too far in the absurd direction, is a satisfying end to the film, and there are a couple of eleventh hour surprises to be had that will keep you smiling all the way throughout, even as you – well, let’s not spoil the absurdity of the third act with details. Suffice to say, nothing in the film prepares you for just how weird things will get, and there’s a bit of tonal dissonance at times, and a sudden shift in plot direction that plays out over the last ten minutes that – although it works for the most part – seems a bit rushed toward the conclusion.
If Pineapple Express was shot exceptionally well, which by most comedy standards, it was, then This Is The End is edited exceptionally well, with some of the best comedic cuts that I’ve seen in a few years. The film always knows when to cut and when to linger in long shot, and it’s surprising how astute their comedic timing can be just through the editing. But the editing also provides a palpable intensity during the latter half of the film, an intensity far greater than what I expected going into the film. It’s not really “scary”, but there are a few smash cuts that could qualify as jump scares if the comedy trappings surrounding the rest of the film were eliminated.
Ultimately, This Is The End is a very solid comedy in the same vein as this particular group of actors’ previous works. If you’ve liked that, you’ll almost certainly love this film. If you didn’t, I still encourage you check it out, because while still a very stupid, stupid film, it’s enjoyable, well made, and a good night at the movies by any metric.