Stars: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, Paul Rudd | Written and Directed by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
With the halcyon years of their Apatow-backed adventures behind them, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg bring us their meditation on an unknown future with apocalyptic comedy This Is The End, a bundle of joy with fine comic performances all round, also showing off at least some sort of increased cinematic ambitions for the filmmakers.
Smartly Rogen and Goldberg draw you into the film with the first act which feels like an old comfortable pair of shoes, both making you feel at ease but also wanting something a little more. The section is packed with a shed load of celebrities playing themselves, a scene stealing Michael Cera the standout in this section, it takes on the “hanging out” feel of Superbad and Pineapple Express but with the USP of everyone playing themselves with funny results. But its when the Apocalypse starts happening that the film shakes things up somewhat, it being given avenues to explore in a chaotic but surprisingly cine literate fashion.
Rogen and Goldberg mix proceedings up from here, daring to push audience expectations and at times actually going to go down a mildly horror-comedy route, with a few “splatstick” moments and jump scares which actually managed to work on some audience members in my screening. This is all combined with some funny riffs on The Exorcist and best of all Rosemary’s Baby along with plenty of discussions of what to do informed by both their previous life experience but also their watching movies which creates what feels like an admittedly heightened but also somewhat natural view of what a bunch of celebrities in LA would do if this happened to them.
Rogen and Goldberg also how to make their money stretch using a somewhat low $30 million budget, especially for this kind of celebrity filled film, which hopes to actually be somewhat epic with moments which do show some sort of scale peppered throughout what for a lot of the runtime is a one-set, digitally shot apocalyptic chamber piece. Crank cinematographer Brandon Trost creates a moody environment smartly using light to suggest the fires and carnage raging outside.
All this would be for nought if the performances from the actors weren’t strong but thankfully we have a bunch of people who know how to do comedy and know how to take the piss out of themselves. Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen are pretty much the straight men of the piece though the increasing disconnect between the two does working creating somewhat of an effective arc through the film. James Franco doesn’t get an awful lot to do but has some funny riffs on being obssessed with Rogen, Jonah Hill’s nicest guy in Hollywood routine develops nicely as the film goes on, and Craig Robinson along with Danny McBride get the “bigger” moments in the film and threaten to run away with it often. These are men who are comfortable in their own skin and comfortable with each other and it shows on-screen, and along with some cameos you expect and one in particular which you don’t, which shows that this particular actor can still surprise, it all makes an experience you can get a great deal of pleasure from throughout.
The Blu-ray features more than 90 minutes of exclusive and outrageous bonus features, including deleted scenes, a gag reel and a hilarious “Line-O-Rama” blooper reel. Also included is Jay & Seth vs. The Apocalypse, the original short film that inspired the movie, along with five additional featurettes exploring the visual effects in the film, showing how the party scene at James Franco’s house came together, and taking viewers behind the scenes with cast as they reflect on the unique acting process of playing versions of themselves. There’s also a commentary with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, as well as the “Directing Your Friends” featurette, in which Seth and Evan discuss what it’s like to make a film with their friends and members of the cast reflect on their experiences on set. Plus marketing outtakes, a cast featurette, redband sizzle trailer and four additional confessionals – Aziz Haunts Craig, James & Danny Confessional, Jonah Confessional, and Seth & Jay Confessional.
This Is The End is certainly the strongest comedy there’s been so far this year, and certainly the best since last year’s 21 Jump Street. For film fans, and surprisingly for horror fans, there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had from it and in the future for some, me included, it will likely be a re-watching classic.