This is the End

Don't rushThere is something deliciously appealing about a Hollywood movie that casts stars as themselves, congregates them at a celebrity bash then interrupts the drug taking and poolside schmoozing with a biblical apocalypse that rockets their famous faces to the afterlife.

The key setting in This is the End, written and directed by Pineapple Express scribe Evan Goldberg and star Seth Rogen, is James Franco’s house. Naturally, the famously multi-talented Franco designed it himself, one of countless gags that riff on assumptions of celebrities and the baggage their on-screen personalities carry into “real-life.”

Michael Cera plays a horny coke fiend because (ho ho) his squeaky clean image is closer to Milkybar Kid than movie star. After spotting Seth Rogen at the airport, a passer-by mocks him for always playing the same character and in the resulting two hours Rogen plays (ho ho) his signature weed puffing, munchies chomping, lovable lug character.

When LA erupts into madness and anarchy, that iconic Hollywood sign crumbles to rubble and the city begins to look like Smaug threw up on a fireplace. Franco, Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel play a team of six who try to work out a plan to stay alive but are hamstrung by petty arguments and less than valourous coping skills.

[pullquote position=”right”]There’s something coy and subversive niggling at the core of This is the End. At its best it’s a film about people getting lost in the fiction of their own creations[/pullquote] and, when real disaster strikes, having only their caricatures to protect them.

The characters’ inability to sort themselves out mirrors the movie’s. Goldberg and Rogen valiantly attempt to provide coherency to a scrambled and splotchy storyline that lurches between fire and brimstone fantasy and stoner comedy, including a regrettable parody of The Exorcist featuring meat tongs and a spatula as a makeshift cross.

The jokes are generally pretty good, in a smugly entertaining navel-gazing kind of way. Low-key dialogue spans quasi-Seinfeldian conversations to ruminations about the worthiness of celebrity entitlement, interspersed with moments of reasonably innovative self-conscious comedy such as a scene in which the stars swede a Pineapple Express sequel and a dismissive Danny McBride, upon hearing news of the apocalyptic shit storm brewing outside, criticises his colleagues for their unconvincing deliveries.

If the premise is deliciously appealing, there is something equally despairing yet oddly fitting about a star-stuffed Hollywood pic that puts great thought and consideration into its setup and uses its final act as a dumping ground for colourful nonsense. The kooky whims of This is the End’s plot were always going to be hard to wrap up in a satisfying manner, but ending with a dance off featuring the Back Street Boys doesn’t cut it — in this life or the next.

This is the End’s Australia theatrical release date: July 18, 2013. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey