Sweeping privacy breaches by the NSA, tornadoes at every turn, the spawning of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West—maybe this really is the end of the world. If it is, let's hope we can all find the good humor exhibited by This Is the End, the latest Seth Rogen joint.
Several years ago, Rogen and Jay Baruchel made a short film called Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse. Technically, it wasn't even a short film; it was just a trailer. Back when Rogen could get movies made by snapping his fingers, he and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg, pitched this idea and got the money. And here we are. It's actually a pretty damn funny movie.
The actors play themselves during what at first seems like a geological oddity, then maybe an alien attack, and is finally revealed to be the biblical End Times. Baruchel and Rogen go to a party at James Franco's new house, and a giant sinkhole opens up, swallowing (in alphabetical order) Aziz Ansari, Michael Cera, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, possibly Paul Rudd and Jason Segel. The only survivors: Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and maybe Emma Watson.
The idea could not be simpler: What would these schlubs do if the world had days to live? Well, they'd smoke a lot of pot, obviously. Rogen assumes his usual role—himself—about which there is a joke in the opening scene of the film. Baruchel is never comfortable around crowds and he particularly does not like Jonah Hill. If it's too inside to know that Hill has a reputation of being an incredibly nice guy, don't worry: He's painted that way here, too. Franco is positioned as the movie star of the group, with the nice house and all the rest.
Because half a dozen survivors are a little too many for this kind of movie, there needs to be an antagonist to shake things up, and that's where Danny McBride comes in. He's played so many self-possessed hot shit characters over the years (namely Kenny Powers on Eastbound and Down) that he's a natural bad guy. When saving food becomes a priority, McBride cooks a massive breakfast feast. He reveals a closely guarded and hurtful secret about Baruchel. He and Franco have a marathon meltdown over masturbation, which is the film's funniest moment.
And if there needs to be an antagonist, This Is the End also requires a hero. Baruchel emerges as the film's conscience, seeing the events for what they really are and trying to rally the group to get along and be prepared as the seven-headed demons start to rain untold destruction on the Hollywood Hills. And even though this is a comedy, much of the apocalypse looks genuine enough to keep that side of the story compelling.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about this film is, despite its silliness, Rogen and Goldberg—as well as the cast—have enough left in the tank for way more jokes. This isn't an all-time great comedy, but it's consistently funny throughout, and given the plot, that's not as easy as it might sound.
This Is the End finally gives Rogen a vehicle to cash in on his promise. When Judd Apatow writes for him, it's usually pretty good. When he writes with Goldberg (Pineapple Express and Superbad), it can be really entertaining. This brings it all together for Rogen—it's a giant, raunchy comedy with his best friends. And his best buds.