It's fairly common for actors to play comic, unflattering, or excessive versions of themselves, but This Is the End takes that practice up several notches by having the whole cast parodying themselves -- and during the apocalypse too!
The plot is pretty simple. Seth Rogen (who co-wrote and co-directed This Is the End, along with Evan Goldberg) picks up his good buddy Jay Baruchel at the airport in L.A. Jay hates the whole Hollywood scene and just wants to hang out with Seth. But Seth takes him to a big party at James Franco's self-designed house. And it seems like everyone in Hollywood is there, from musicians to comics to an obnoxious Michael Cera.
When Seth and Jay leave the party to get some smokes, things get weird. Beams of blue light drag people into the sky! Objects come crashing down, killing people! A huge sinkhole in front of James Franco's house drags almost everyone at the party into it! Soon Hollywood is a burning wasteland, with monsters and death. Is it the Biblical apocalypse? An alien invasion? Global warming? Anyway, after the night a few survivors are left at the house: Seth, Jay, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride (who crashed the party and fell asleep upstairs).
This Is the End is very dark and silly at the same time. There are plenty of disturbing things -- from severed limbs to a head used as a kickball to cannibalism -- but it's all so over-the-top that it's hard to take seriously. The same can be said of the actors, who enjoy spoofing themselves. Has Jonah Hill really become ultra-nice after the success of Moneyball? Does James Franco really shift so easily from pretentious artist to stoner ready to do Pineapple Express 2? Is Danny McBride really that obnoxious? Is Jay genuine, or just a poser? None of it really matters, as the actors all riff on each other, throw parties, wonder if they deserve to survive, and have very explicit arguments and discussions. (One between Franco and McBride is amazingly disgusting -- and laugh-out-loud funny.)
There's no real depth to This Is the End, but it's a very funny movie (and a nice contrast to the pre-2012 end-of-the-world disaster flicks we got). There are numerous terrific cameos, plenty of bizarre interactions, and finale that's so silly it must be seen to be believed. This Is the End could have been a self-indulgent pile of incoherent silliness, but it manages to be a bit more than that -- and pretty hysterical too!
Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch