‘This Is the End’ has lots of laughs… and heart

James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Ferguson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen fight to survive the apocalypse in 'This is the End'
James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, and Seth Rogen fight to survive the apocalypse in ‘This is the End’

I’m a little mad at this movie. Mad because I had so many puns on the title to use to describe how terrible it is. But that’s not the case at all.

This Is the End accomplishes the basic goal of being funny, yet has depth to it that the serious disaster movies could learn a thing or two from.

For whoever doesn’t yet know, the actors here are playing themselves. Or rather, a version of themselves, since I doubt the real Michael Cera is as much of an oversexed cocaine addict. But if it does seem like someone is the same as they always are, there’s at least a valid reason for it.

Jay Baruchel flies into Los Angeles to spend some quality time with his longtime friend from the old country, Seth Rogen. After an afternoon of activities including 3D television, listening to “Backstreet’s Back”, and recreational drug use (probably all at once), Rogen convinces Baruchel to go with him to a party at James Franco’s house.

Right from the front door the tension begins. It becomes clear that Baruchel doesn’t mesh well with Rogen’s new friends, who also include Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson. And then it happens.  What seems like a mere earthquake breaks open a chasm is the backyard that kills nearly all partygoers.

Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Hill, and Robinson are the survivors and learn that some cataclysmic event has taken place and does all the things that a cataclysmic event does (power knocked out, dangers outside, etc). But soon one more joins the party: Danny McBride. Not invited to the party in the first place, he snuck in and then passed out in the bathroom when everything happened. He proves to a bigger impediment to team unity.

That’s really the central conflict and aside from the tone, what makes this more than just another disaster movie. The story is as much about the potential end of the world as it is the potential end of a friendship. Bigger themes that build upon this premise are then introduced when the cause of the apocalypse is clarified, and the other character start to learn their lessons too. And let’s face it, as funny as these guys can be, this would a very dull proceeding if everybody played nice.

Surprisingly, the film doesn’t overdo the celebrity appearances. They appear where they should; no situation makes anyone feel out of place and no one pops in at inappropriate times. It’s also pleasantly unexpected that the celebs of lesser star status are given as much attention as the more famous ones. Martin Starr and Kevin Hart are focused on just as much as Jason Segel or Paul Rudd.

The main problem here is that it not easily accessible to newcomers. This film assumes that you are already familiar with who these people are and why it would be funny to see them play against type or exaggerated personas. Similarly, the brand of humor is the same as always. If you weren’t into it before, nothing here is going to change your mind.

Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg make their directorial debuts with this film, and we can only hope they take up the position again soon. This had better not be the end for them. Hey, looks like I was able to make a pun after all.

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