I don’t think the write-up for This Is The End needs to be all that long to get the primary impressions across. I’ve been reading around at various folks’ reactions to it and it seems like, in their excitement, they end up giving a lot away. I don’t think this comes from any malicious intent at all, I’d imagine it just comes from being giddily excited over the end result. I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to give away any more than I absolutely have to about this film with the hope that you can insulate yourselves long enough to get into the theatre seat with as little ruined as possible. Because I don’t personally want to be at fault for taking any of the zing off of the myriad of hyper-inappropriate but all-together hilarious onslaught of jokes that make This Is The End a truly inspired bit of filmmaking.
This does not come without caveats, however. This film is not for everyone. I’d be doing you a disservice if I just said it was great for everyone and everyone should see it. Do I think it was fantastic? Absolutely. Do I recognize that the religiously uptight and/or overly sensitive (about things like bodily functions, crazy violence, jokes about taboo topics etc) might be horrified by the film? Yep, I get that. I don’t want to load up buses with the wide cross-section of people in my neighborhood and schlep them to the theatre because all it’d do is foster negative feelings towards those in the film from some and certainly towards me. This film is not for everyone but it sure knows its audience.
That is not to say that it panders to the lowest common denominator either. Far from it. This is not a pandering film made only for stoner dorks, movie geeks and the like who are on the fringes of, or in on, the joke. But this isn’t necessarily made for the wide masses and I figure that is okay. Those with a healthy sense of dark humor, those who can recognize a good parody and a good farce mixed with genuine artistry will dig the hell out of it. I sure did.
The film basically centers around a group of 20 and 30 something Hollywood types who find themselves trapped in the throes of the apocalypse on the night of a housewarming party in Los Angeles. The other background-basic story felt (initially) pretty throw away to me but I was proven wrong as things unfolded and all things (literally) went to hell. I give writers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jason Stone a lot of credit for utilizing a well-worn story arc (friends growing older, growing apart) and making it seem unique and true. Jay Baruchel travels to Los Angeles to hang out with his fellow Canadian friend Seth Rogen and after a fun start-off, things start to sour when Jay must deal with Seth’s increased presence in the Hollywood lifestyle, something Jay cannot stand. This gets our two main guys to the party (at a very strange James Franco’s house) and the coming disaster to follow.
To start to list out the cornucopia of cameos and guest stars from the party forward and to even attempt to describe the rapid-fire setups and jokes and passive lines and on and on and on is a fool’s errand. It would be nutty. They don’t all work but the pace is so frantic that you don’t linger long. The other thing that happens is you miss stuff because you are too busy trying to re-attach your ass that has been laughed off from the previous scene. It comes that quickly and is that consistently good.
Once they start to realize the gravity of the situation, the film shifts gears into a survival type of setup with fraying nerves and escalating tempers. You couple this with a profoundly smart and wonderfully self-deprecating thesis that these softies can’t really do anything for themselves. It is a great joke played multiple times in different ways but never worn out. They see the inherent ridiculousness of their existences in the face of true mortal danger and essentially can’t get anything right. The character arcs for Baruchel and Craig Robinson are the most dynamic and satisfying. Danny McBride is just gloriously batshit in a couple of ways left of sane. (see? I can feel myself wanting to just unload). I’m a big fan of Baruchel in general so it was quite cool to see him nail a more central role in a film like this.
This gives way into a very interesting rumination on the nature of faith and what the rapture really is and what it means for those who go and those who don’t. Their take on this (and in a larger way) the filmmakers’ take on this is likely to unglue some of the more literal (and tucked) in the religious community (should they ever see the thing) but I don’t really think that was the intent. This is not a master class in the potential faulty interpretations of literal faith and shouldn’t be taken as such. Their application of this discussion/idea in the film brings a sense of humbleness to them (or a lack of humbleness depending on the person) which I thought was quite clever. These aren’t born-again crusaders or even have a clue what they even feel or believe but they are trying at least. That seems to be the message in all of it. Try.
That and humor is best when it is unfiltered, uncompromising and done at about 90 miles-per-hour. There are a couple draggy spots here and there but by and large I was engaged, laughing and marveling at this wacky-mess that turned itself into one of the funniest films in years. Do not let anyone ruin the ending and a few key cameos and whatever you do, don’t look at the Wikipedia or IMDB pages because they don’t seem to understand showing a full cast kind of gives crap away. Go in with you head held high with as little data and you can and have fun. Because This Is The End is a lot of fun.