d. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, 2013 -- in theatre
I was nervous about This Is The End, nervous that it would be a film too "inside baseball" as they say, a film for the fans of the "Apatow Kids" from Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, 40-Year-Old Virgin onward. I don't think Apatow has inspired the frothing fandom of a Kevin Smith, or even the more erudite geek fandom of Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg, and so I was worried that a film like this, which appeared to be banking on a general audience being fans of the actors, rather than their acting ability, would be a later-day Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, a movie solely reliant on in jokes and understanding fourth-wall-breaking references. I don't know why I was so worried, after all, I genuinely loved the Rogen and Goldberg scripted Superbad, and Pineapple Express was a blast, so why shouldn't I have faith that they could pull another great comedy out? *cough*Green Hornet*cough*. Oh, right.
But it was a concern easily dismissed. The film begins with Rogen picking his friend and fellow Canadian Jay Baruschel up from LAX for a solid week of catch up, and bonding over weed, snacks and video games. Rogen drags a highly reluctant Baruschel along to a party at James Franco's new place, where Rogen's new, non-Canadian friends will be, friends whom Baruschel can't really tolerate. During the party, the rapture happens (nobody at the party notices) and the apocalypse begins. Chaos and mayhem and dead celebrities abound as the grounds open up and the sky rains fire. It's all very Biblical, with a lot of blaspheming coming out of the actors mouths. The party and the subsequent dissolving of the party is epic satire, with a clever bit of celebrity lampooning and piss-taking of Hollywood egos, but for all the hype it's remarkably short. It's a judicious cutting, keeping the movie at a reasonable time, but I'm looking forward to DVD extras of all the deleted scenes that there must be nonetheless.
Left alive in Franco's fortified bunker of a home are Franco, Baruschel, Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. The sextet, largely appearing as friends, are quite clearly realizing that "Hollywood friends" are not quite the same as real friends. The film is about them relating to one another as people as much as it's about them surviving the apocalypse and the numerous dick and fart jokes that you can draw out of such a scenario (and it's a remarkable amount). Rogen and Goldberg seem to (generally) excel at drafting these kind of male-bonding experiences and doing so in an entertaining way. The film succeeds in establishing these men as people and not just relying on their celebrity status to do the heavy lifting, and it's effective in getting you to care for them. or at least their relationships with each other, even if you dislike them. The film takes aspects of the primary actors and exaggerates them for its own comedic purpose - such as Rogen's cowardice, Hill's duplicity, and McBride's selfishness - and gets a lot of mileage from it. It's not necessarily against type for any of them, but it plays with what's expected and pushes them to extremes. Ultimately, This Is The End succeeds because it's damn funny, it can be silly, honest, scary, gross, bizarre and touching all at once. The "inside baseball" jokes are there, but it's not the focus of the characters, the story or the humour, it's just one small facet of a surprisingly robust apocalyptic comedy.