THIS IS THE END is what happens when you take a bunch of extremely funny people, put them in a story that allows them to play to their strengths, and cut them loose to do what they do best. This is the type of movie Adam Sandler dreams he could make while hanging out with his friends, and maybe one day if he decides to cut the cord that has him and his co-horts tied down by their juvenile brand of humor for the lowest common denominator, he can get there. Until then, the Apatow disciples seemed to have cornered the market, going meta with heightened versions of themselves and the personas we’ve come to associate with them for this crazy bit of hilarity that has a handful of them fighting to survive the apocalypse at James Franco’s new house at a time when Los Angeles is nothing more than fire and brimstone.
Setting in motion this ridiculous chain of events is Jay Baruchel coming down from Canada to visit his best friend Seth Rogen in L.A. Baruchel is pegged as being not much of an L.A. scene type of guy, and, as a result, he just floats down periodically to spend some time with his long-time buddy. They have an entire weekend planned of smoking weed and watching TV and playing video games until Seth thinks it’d be cool to head on over to Franco’s new pad for a housewarming party. Baruchel, uncomfortable around the Hollywood crowd, isn’t keen on going, but, because it’s his friend asking, he relents. While there, everyone from Mindy Kaling to Aziz Ansari to Rihanna is in attendance, but it makes no difference to Baruchel one bit. He feels ditched by his boy and would like to get the hell away from this present company as quickly as possible, not really digging the new crowd Rogen associates with, as it continues to create more distance between them in their own friendship. After managing to escape for a bit with his friend in tow, a massive attack is put on the convenience store they’re momentarily visiting, with people getting sucked up into the sky via beams of light while death and destruction seems to be happening on the ground. They rush back to the unaffected Franco’s house before such craziness makes it way into that neighborhood, sucking celebrities into the crumbling earth left and right, until all we’re left with is the surviving core of Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride… and that’s when the chaos is taken to another level, as six guys who don’t know a damn thing about survival are forced to work together in some regards to try to ride this thing out, even though things seem to be getting worse pretty quickly.
What follows is some pretty filthy moments that range from arguments over who is going to have the pleasure of eating the Milky Way candy bar among their limited rations to an argument over the freedom to jizz that had me hunched over in my seat laughing on the verge of tears. THIS IS THE END isn’t so much a story-driven comedy so much as a vehicle for this group of talented individuals to pool their resources together and bounce line after line off one another. It’s a series of moments that, depending upon how you feel about each of these comedy-centric actors, either land marvelously for you or having you wish you would have elected to see something else. There really is no two ways about it. You either find this brand of humor incredibly funny, or it’s not your cup of tea… and that’s precisely how THIS IS THE END operates. Ask yourself this: Does the idea of a giant demon penis swaying around in full view offend you or make you laugh? If you’re already smirking at such a concept, then you’re going to have yourself an enjoyable time with THIS IS THE END. If your jaw dropped rather suddenly, taking offense to the visions of an evil phallus I just put in your head, this one isn’t for you.
Rogen and Baruchel’s friendship may be the premiere driving force of THIS IS THE END, but without Franco and McBride, this one would not fire on all cylinders as it does. I haven’t always been a fan of Danny McBride’s work, finding his typical persona as a cocky and obnoxious douche to be a bit grating and tiresome in nearly every project he graces, but as the selfish asshole of the group, McBride works tremendously well as that stand-out personality that works against the interests of everyone, because he just can’t help himself. Oh, sure… he’d like to be an integral part of this tight knit group, but his self-destructive nature can’t help but rear its ugly head, choosing spite over sacrifice, me over us. McBride is typically right smack in the middle of THIS IS THE END’s most knee-slapping exchanges, and every moment he’s on-screen tossing back and forth with one of his fellow cast members, the film is at its absolute best. Franco brings a more understated weirdness to the group. It’s not an overt or in-your-face delivery that Franco goes, but a subtle approach that allows this version of himself to be incredibly funny without ever appearing as if he’s trying. Part of the brilliance of THIS IS THE END is that these guys never once feel as if they’re playing characters, but believable versions of themselves (well, maybe with the volume turned up a bit), and Franco is a key component of that, really feeding off the perception of what people think he may be like.
Writer-directors Evan Goldberg and Rogen have the good sense to sit back and let everyone work their comedic magic, and, due to allowing this cast the freedom to do what they do best and capturing it on-screen, the laughs are never in short supply. One of the side effects that comes from that is a running time that feels about 15-20 minutes too long, with some bits just running out of steam in typical Apatow fashion when a proper editor would have cut them before the jokes became dead and buried, but that’s a small price to pay for a movie that sure does deliver the goods. If you’ve got a dirty sense of humor that isn’t easily put off, I highly recommend THIS IS THE END to you. I have no doubt you’ll find plenty to have you bucking in your chair with hardcore laughter throughout, making this a worthwhile trip to the movies.