Movie Review: This is the End
In one of the funniest moments of this summer’s greatest romp, Michael Cera confronts a panicking party over his lost phone at James Franco’s new, Beverly Hills mansion. It's the dawn of the apocalypse, but Cera needs to make a call. A falling light pole impales Cera as a hole opens up to the earth’s core. As the impaled Cera checks his pocket, he finds his lost phone. His last words, “well, this is embarrassing.”
In another brotherly love flick from Seth Rogen and company, This is the End offers an interesting new twist to the apocalypse genre, namely an exploration on friendship. Following a sextet of Hollywood stars trapped in Franco’s house, this film offers a meta-fictional glance at their relationships. As apocalyptic winds whirl firestorms around outside, the group’s real danger actually comes from themselves. The apocalypse is a friendship test. Are Hollywood actors just caricatures or humans?
The film mostly follows the relationship between Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen. Baruchel comes to Los Angeles for the weekend to stay with his old friend. There, Rogen convinces the socially reluctant Baruchel to come along to Franco’s illustrious, house-warming party. Hollywood stars are there in abundance: Rihanna, Jason Segal, Cera, Emma Watson. The stars’ depictions often contrast their public personas. Cera runs around the party slapping Rihanna’s ass while on a coke quest. Actors’ distress over their television characters. Segal laments his role on his hit television show How I Met Your Mother, “You know it’s the same thing. ‘Where’s the cake?’ Lilly asks, and I come out with frosting on my face and everyone laughs.” The movie separates these stars’ characters and their meta-fictional selves. Yet, their friendships are often mischievous. It’s all for self-preservation.
Killing off stars never seemed easier. After the apocalypse literally devours most of the party, the six survivors make shelter in Franco’s home. Trapped, the movie dips briefly into a fantasy drug world. As the six friends dance around to ecstasy and smoke copious amounts of pot, they act out sequels and reenactments to some of their famous movie collaborations. You begin to wonder, are these characters or people?
Their friendships seem fake. It's as though they just act out friendships from their previous films. Franco’s character obsesses over Rogen as though they’re still the friends from their previous stoner film, Pineapple Express. Jonah Hill is great as a smiling chameleon like character. He’ll always tell you what you want to hear, but it’s always as though he’s petting you like you’re his dog. Rogen’s character is similar to his usual characters, tentative and lazy. Then, there’s Danny McBride, the film’s only real villain. On the spectrum of apocalyptic characters, McBride’s role is somewhere between a cum-happy glutton and a psychopathic cannibal. In his latter role, he leads his apocalyptic gang walking a half-naked Channing Tatum chained to a dog-leash.
As the friends survive, their search for food and water seems in vain. The world is at its end. The movie turns itself into a question on morality. As Baruchel carries his bible believing it’s Judgment Day, devilish creatures prey on the group. The group begins to break. Some believe that their survival trumps their friendships. Yet, in the end, our character comes from how we treat those around us. It’s better to die a friend than live a cannibal.