THIS IS THE END
As an actor, Rogen has charted out an amiably middle of the road niche; Seth Rogen the writer is a somewhat more dubious proposition. His scripts for Superbad and Pineapple Express have been side-splitting. And then of course there was the subsequent notoriety of The Interview (2014). There are also the occasions where he has ventured into genre material with less than happy results the abortion that was The Green Hornet (2011) and the none-particularly standout The Watch (2012), which vanished with little notice, although he and collaborative partner did redeem themselves with the completely off-the-wall comic-book adapted tv series Preacher (2016 ) and the animated Sausage Party (2016).
This is The End is developed from out of an eight-and-a-half minute comedy short Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse (2007) written by Rogen and his regular creative partner Evan Goldberg that starred Rogen and Jay Baruchel as two roommates trapped in a messy apartment as the apocalypse hits. Despite rumours to the contrary, Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse has never been screened to the public (although a trailer is available on YouTube). Rogen shipped the short film around Hollywood where the rights were picked by Mandate Pictures. With the full-length film version, Rogen and Evan Goldberg make their mutual directorial debuts. (The Point Grey production company banner is named after the Vancouver high school where both grew up).
This is The End reminds of a film like The Anniversary Party (2001), which was co-directed by actors Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who brought in a cast of fellow actors/friends in an ensemble drama set around the titular party, which they shot at a friends house. Joss Whedon did very similar things with Much Ado About Nothing (2012), which went into general release around the same time as This is The End, shooting a contemporary adaptation of the Shakespeare play around his own home using a cast of familiar actors from his various shows. [In terms of premise, there is a good deal in common with Its a Disaster (2012) and Goodbye World (2013), which both had a very similar set-up of a group of people barricaded in a house facing the end of the world, while the very unfunny Rapture-Palooza (2013) was another comedy that dealt with The Rapture]. Similarly here, Rogen gives the impression that he has gathered together a group of actor friends most of them recruited from the so-called Frat Pack who found success in Judd Apatow films and improvised something in what appears to be one of their houses (although is in fact a studio-based set). The film comes packed with a great many celebrity cameos aside from those mentioned in the primary credits list above, the party features appearances from the likes of Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Martin Starr, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Krumholtz, not all of whom you can identify onscreen. It is some way down the cast list before you run across an actor who is not playing themselves.
While the immediate reaction is to regard the film as an exercise in self-congratulatory humour where various actors play versions of themselves as they get wasted and engaged in various hijinks, This is The End is far more self-aware than that. It is constantly mocking its stars own self-importance and artistic pretensions. Within the opening moments, Rogen is passing through the airport followed by a tv reporter asking him Seth Rogen dont you always play the same character in every film? Some of the most amusing lines are ones throwing jibes in the direction of their own failings with snide remarks about flops like Your Highness (2011) and Rogens acting in The Green Hornet. We even get the group coming up with the idea for and then performing a sweded version of a sequel to Pineapple Express at one point. Some of the funniest scenes are those where guesting actors use the opportunity to trash their on-screen images Michael Cera is positively side-splitting in his appearances at the party playing a pretentious, coke-snorting version of himself, while Channing Tatum has an equally side-splitting cameo as Danny McBrides gimp at the end of the film. There is also the appearance of Harry Potter actress Emma Stone and an extremely funny scene discussing whether the rest of the male group are giving off a rapey vibe, before she turns and gains the upper hand, leading to Danny McBrides outburst of disbelief: Hermione jacked our food.
You either get Seth Rogens stoner humour and fratboy penchant for mild outrage or you dont. That said, This is The End is one film where the Rogen humour and the film itself hits on all cylinders and keep going for 107 minutes (which is somewhat longer than the usual mainstream-released comedy) while never tiring, mistiming a gag or running out of new ones. The film delivers a number of consistently raucously funny scenes and one-liners. Moreover, each of the principal actors play to great strength throughout. One of the surprise scene-stealers of the film ends up being Danny McBride, an actor I have never cared for in anything else I have seen him in, whose loud and boisterous scenes demanding more water or arguing with James Franco over who jizzed on the pornographic magazine end up being some of the funniest moments in the film.
This is The End is largely a film of comedic interactions between the actors more so than it is ever a film about The Apocalypse. It is not a film that asks you to take much of its theology seriously as witness the end vision of Heaven with doobies lit up off of halos and of a resurrected reuniting of The Backstreet Boys. The film gets an amusing dig in at The Exorcist (1973) with a possessed Jonah Hill a subplot that seems a bit random and could have been cut and Jay Baruchel trying to ineffectually conduct an exorcism by citing cliches of the power of Christ compels you. It does at least offer a version of The Rapture that in its own irreverent way offers more of theological substance than Left Behind (2000) and its ilk in the view that acceptance to Heaven is actually based on good deeds and self-sacrifice.