Nothing ruins a party like the end of the world…
Hollywood’s new generation of superannuated frat boys indulge themselves in this bloated, sporadically chucklesome vanity project. In This is the End, James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Danny McBride play the roles they were born to play: themselves.
Co-director/writer Seth Rogen plays a version of himself as a self-absorbed, greedy, consumer-gadget-obsessed celebrity named Seth Rogen. In real life, he’s married to actress Lauren Miller, but in the movie Rogen chooses to live alone. His one genuine friend, or so he thinks, is his fellow Canadian actor Jay Baruchel.
Rogen drags Jay along to uber-conceited James Franco’s house-warming in a modernist bachelor pad full of misbehaving celebrities, including Jonah Hill at his greasiest. The duo end up holed up with assorted celebrity friends in Franco’s house when the apocalypse comes to Hollywood.
Although there are plenty of drug-taking sex-addicts in Hollywood to choose from, the innocent-looking Michael Cera gets to play the worst of them all, and because his drug of choice appears to be cocaine rather than marijuana Cera is the first to die, impaled on a lamp post after a fiery chasm appears in Franco’s front yard. Like all the deaths, it is depicted with salacious gruesomeness.
At one point, a non-celebrity wants to be let into the house. Around the time the stars abandon him to his fate, the intruder is decapitated, and his head rolls around in puddles of gore. Our heroes’ reaction is to play football with it.
The movie uses the end of the world as a pretext for projectile vomiting, bodily fluids and every kind of grossness. Whilst a sweary mash-up of The Rapture and Ghostbusters made a great dope-fuelled party pitch, the reality is more sobering; a collection of the usual cock and ball gags with added CGI monsters.
It may not convince as the end of the world, but it looks horribly like the death throes of intelligent comedy. It starts of well, but the storyline wears thin, as did my patience. It is overlong and as much as it pains me to say because I really enjoy the collaboration of Franco and McBride, it was over-silly.
The best thing in the movie was Danny McBride’s entrance as a hung-over stoner who James Franco hates, walking into the room unaware of the disastrous situation they find themselves in – thus making him by far the most likable presence on screen.
Presumably, some influential producer saw The Watch, a comedy flop that was universally despised, and thought ‘What a cracking screenplay! Let’s get these geniuses to write a movie based on the Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine!’
Or maybe some more than usually stoned executive decided to emulate the 1998 drama Final Cut, in which famous British actors (not so well-known today, alas) played themselves in one of the ghastliest displays ever of celebrity self-adoration and exclaimed: ‘Why don’t we make movies like that anymore?’ I’ll tell you why, because the concept is funny initially and then becomes really tiresome.
“Hey let’s go to a party at James Franco’s house”. “Hi James Franco, how are you? “You’re house is so nice James Franco.” “Can you pass the bong James Franco?” You get the idea.
Whatever the explanation, lovers of lewdness will get their money’s worth. One website has calculated that, over the course of 107 minutes, the F-word is used about 300 times. I guess it’s easier than coming up with jokes.
This is The End is written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whose biggest hits were Superbad and Pineapple Express, which found an audience. They also wrote The Green Hornet and The Watch, which didn’t. At the start of the movie, a member of the public taunts Rogen, saying: ‘You always play the same guy in every movie. When are you gonna do some acting?’
This is a good question — and one that remains unanswered.
By Ruth Walker