by Tony Dayoub
A clever, funny and, most of all, incredibly original comedy, This Is the End is a surprising contender for most hilarious movie I've seen all year. Concocted by Evan Goldberg and actor Seth Rogen as a nihilistic, self-reflexive satire featuring Rogen and his actor friends as themselves, This Is the End successfully overcomes its biggest potential liability, extending its one-joke premise too far, by keeping the movie short and, as this film's version of Jonah Hill would say, tight.
Its setup is simple. Actor Jay Baruchel visits buddy Seth Rogen in LA, and gets dragged to one of those vacuous Hollywood parties he associates with the superficial industry town. With a ton of self-involved celebrities like Rihanna, Emma Watson, and a coked-out Michael Cera (a comic creation that deserves a movie in and of himself) stuffed in the architecturally inane house James Franco just had built for himself, there's not much going on that runs counter to Baruchel's low opinion of this group of spoiled stars.
When the end of the world interrupts Franco's housewarming bash, the more sober-minded look for safety while the higher-strung (like Aziz Ansari and Kevin Hart) fall to their deaths into a backyard sinkhole that looks as deep as Hades itself. Soon, a small group of survivors is holed up in Franco's manse wondering why some people have been safely transported up into the skies by blue beams and others have been left to fend for themselves in a flaming landscape where one hears the occasional deep growl of a beast that is goring the dwindling band of Los Angelenos. "This shit's cray-cray guys," a colossal understatement made by Rogen.
Once you leave the actual fire and brimstone out of the equation though, This Is the End is striking because the humor arises out of the realistic way in which these bunch of fools react to their circumstances. The food choices afforded to them by Franco's pantry are slim, most of them falling under junk food or alcohol. And it doesn't seem like anyone here knows how to cook what little there is that could be called nutritious, at least until one uninvited guest awakens from his drunken stupor. The way Rogen, Baruchel and the others eventually lapse into their default mode of coping—aimlessly partying and using the plentiful drugs still available—isn't unlike many react when a hurricane bears down on them; board up the windows, and let the booze flow. Scenes like one in which an axe-wielding Emma Watson swings wildly at Rogen and his buddies (after misunderstanding a conversation in which they discuss how they can't behave "rapey" in front of the lone female) are borderline offensive but still ring disturbingly true.
But This Is the End also succeeds because it piles on numerous digressions that support the premise rather than back off from it the way some other comedies, even popular ones, do. Here, philosophical and spiritual notions concerning the end of days are touched upon seriously, at least in the very initial stages, before spiraling into comedic fodder that morphs into the kind of absurdist comedy that operates on such a high level, it's meant to entertain other comedians at the risk of losing the average audience. This Is the End never quite loses said moviegoer, despite coming awfully close at times. The movie evokes the feeling of riding a rickety wooden rollercoaster (forgive the cliché) which might give out from under you at any moment. Some moments I was laughing harder than I've laughed in quite some time. Others I was genuinely terrified the way I'd be in a thrill ride. Perhaps it's because of this fearlessness in melding the sacred with the profane, the feeling that its high concept might careen out of control into abject silliness, that This Is the End feels so exhilarating.