When I first heard of this film, the idea of watching a veritable who's who of lame Judd Apatow stoner comedies come together and do battle against the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, no matter how much I have liked many of these actors outside of the sheltered, bullying world of Apatow comedies, was certainly nothing that appealed to this critic. Yeah yeah, I know, Freaks and Geeks was a great show, and anyone who knows me knows full well that it sits as one of my all-time faves. And yes, I know, James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill have all done work that makes me want to watch them again and again - especially Franco. But hey, judging from most of Judd Apatow's past work, This is the End is not a movie I would likely watch. Then something happened. I found out that the aforementioned Mr. Apatow, the man who squandered a once promising past with silly, sexist, bathroom humoured fodder, has absolutely nothing whatsoever, save for being friends with the majority of the cast, to do with This is the End. Well boys, colour me re-interested, and pencil me back in.
Actually, the real kicker for me was when I realized that Rogen, Franco, Hill et al, were all playing themselves, or at least close versions of themselves. Basically, the story is thus - Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to visit his best bud Rogen, and during his visit, the duo attend a party at James Franco's house, filled with a slew of Rogen's and Franco's pals, from Jason Segel to Craig Robinson to Dave Krumhotlz to Martin Starr to the aforementioned Jonah Hill to Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Rhianna, and even Michael Cera, playing a (probably) dead-on little prick version of himself. Let's face it, the little bastard is the new Andy Dick, and we all know it, but hey, I digress. As I was saying, Rogen and Baruchel go to James Franco's party in the Hollywood Hills, and that is when all hell (literally all Hell!) breaks loose and the rapture happens. After a slew of horrible deaths (this is the moment when Cera shines, and shows his total douchebagery comeuppance), Rogen, Franco, Baruchel, Robinson and Hill, along with Danny McBride who apparently crashed Franco's party and passed out in Franco's bathtub, altogether missing the apocalypse, are left alone to survive the now demon-infested Hell-on-Earth scenario. Party on dudes.
Granted, there is bathroom humour in here (a generational thing I believe - and I do not mind the occasional dick joke, just do not make the whole film that Judd), and this is not what one could or should ever call a classy kind of comedy, but all-in-all, for what it is, the film works. Written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the film is quite funny at times, a few times, downright heee-larious, and everyone does their appropriate share. I was especially surprised with McBride's performance, for he is an actor I have never been able to like all that much, but here he changes my attitude a bit. In the end, This is the End is basically just a bunch of stoner acting buddies getting together and making a movie (not unlike the drinking buddy Rat Pack some fifty years ago), and it appears as if they are enjoying the hell out of themselves making the damn thing, and I must say, first impressions aside, I had a hell of a time watching the damn thing. Granted, I am looking forward more to that other end of the world(ish) comedy coming from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nicky Frost, later this year, but this one will more than do for an appetizer to the (smarter set) main course of The World's End coming in a month's time. This will do for now, pig. Oh yeah, and watch out for a fun cameo near the end of the film, from an actor who you might not expect to show up here, playing a part that shows just how un-diva-like this particular actor happens to be. But basically, just have fun. It sure as hell looks like Rogen and his buds did.