This Is the End
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson
Actors are by nature a self-serious lot, so on one level you have to admire “This Is the End,” in which Seth Rogen and other famous people take a collective ax to their on-screen personas.
Directed and scripted by Rogen and his longtime collaborator Evan Goldberg, the movie finds versions of Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson stranded at Franco’s palatial California estate during the apocalypse.
The plot is really an excuse for these actors to do shtick: smoke weed, argue about masturbation and produce a DIY sequel to “Pineapple Express.” It’s essentially a heightened behind-the-scenes comedy with each performer ribbed for his unique traits: Rogen’s affinity for pot, Baruchel’s nervousness, Franco’s pretentious intellectualism, etc.
Goldberg and Rogen offer the audience a window into their exclusive comedy club, giving you a chance to hang out with top-of-the-line talent riffing on the stereotypical way they’re portrayed on-screen and/or in the media. While the apocalyptic events worsen outside Franco’s front door, the scene inside turns into a comic “Survivor.”
But this is fundamentally a narcissistic venture, only sporadically funny, undone by the fact that none of these guys are compelling enough to sustain an entire movie without a story.
There is a better film lurking along the edges here. It is manifest in the appearances of Michael Cera, portrayed as a raging cokehead, and Emma Watson, who is seen as an ax-swinging apocalyptic survivor. These are performers with truly distinctive public personas, shaped by Cera’s decade of playing squirrelly comic characters and Watson’s Hermione stint, that are effectively satirized.
But Cera and Watson are fleeting presences here. So we’re left with a frenzied portrait of homoerotic male bonding between actors who are a lot less interesting playing themselves than you might think.