It makes sense that “This Is the End” turned out the way it did. If Seth Rogen is going to write a script about the Apocalypse, it’s not going to be subtle, nor should it be. (Come on, how boring would that be?) However, in his attempt to spread the wealth among his six leads, he loses sight of what would work best for the story, and in the process loses nearly all of the momentum he and co-writer Even Goldberg gained with an explosively funny first act.
Jay Baruchel (all of the name actors in this movie are playing themselves) flies to Los Angeles for a weekend of bonding with lifelong friend Seth Rogen. Seth asks Jay if he wants to go to a party at James Franco‘s house, but Jay isn’t crazy about Seth’s new friends, and just as he expected, he winds up bored and angry at Seth. When the two leave to get some cigarettes, the Rapture takes place before their eyes, with people being beamed up to heaven while hell is unleashed on earth. They get back to Franco’s house just before a giant hole swallows up everyone but Seth, Jay, James, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill. Oh, and Danny McBride, who crashed the party and fell asleep in the bathtub.
There is a metric ton of comedic talent in those six actors, and while the supporting cast plays gleefully against type – you will never look at Michael Cera or Emma Watson the same way again, and I won’t dare spoil the movie’s final cameo – the leads, wisely, stay close to home in terms of their comfort zone. If anyone here is playing a character other than themselves, it’s Hill, but perhaps he took that bullet in exchange for the payoff he receives in the third act. The rest stick to what they do best. Baruchel is the affable buddy, McBride is a douchebag (and a damn funny one at that), and Rogen and Robinson are, well, Rogen and Robinson.
So why did they think the movie needed to turn into “The Mist,” then? They were doing so well with all of the bro-tastic humor (though a scene between Franco and McBride involving ejaculation should have been trimmed by a good 45 seconds), but then there is a 15-minute stretch where the movie becomes a slightly amusing thriller, the one where people are trapped in a small space, loyalties are tested, secrets are revealed and so on. A little of this would have made for a nice accent; as it is, it goes on for far too long. They redeem themselves with a great finale, but it should have arrived much sooner.
It seems crass to discuss the Apocalypse in the vulgar terms that “This Is the End” does, but then again, this is Seth Rogen we’re talking about, and in his defense, he’s telling the story of the sinners who were left behind. Of course demon rape is going to be on the menu. In what vision of hell would that not happen? Equal parts self-deprecating and self-indulgent, “This Is the End” is to Rogen and his crew what “Grown-Ups” is to Adam Sandler and his buddies: an excuse to get paid to play with his friends, only this one is actually funny.