For the band of survivors in “This Is The End,” the consideration of how to divide (or not) their only Milky Way bar becomes equal to the raging battle between Good and Evil.
This Is The End. Directed and written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Playing in cinemas around New England.
By Betsy Sherman
This is The End is my kind of Rat Pack movie. Members of this particular pack got their start in Judd Apatow-produced and/or –directed TV shows and movies, stretching as far back as the beloved series Freaks and Geeks. The Apatow Babies who play twisted versions of themselves in this inspired, raucous disaster-picture spoof are Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Jay Baruchel, joined by Craig Robinson and Danny McBride.
On the night of a Hollywood party at Franco’s swank house (which, of course, the actor/artist/poet/etc. designed), what at first feels like an earthquake, and then erupts into a multitude of blazes, turns out to be nothing less than the Apocalypse. A lucky few are lifted upwards by beams of blue light. For others, the ground splits to reveal a Pit of Hell into which—sorry, Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, and David Krumholz—the celebrities tumble. The afore-mentioned gang barricade themselves in Franco’s house while cheesy CGI demons roam the devastated landscape. That’s about it for plot, but what’s more important is the dynamic among the group of actors whose friendship is tested by supernatural adversity.
Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg make their debut as directors with This Is the End. As they’ve shown in previous screenplay collaborations such as Superbad, Pineapple Express, and The Green Hornet, their forte is updating the cool, ‘70s buddy movie for the hyper-sensitive twenty-first century. Their protagonists possess a verbal bravado that barely masks deep-down insecurity, and their movies share a spirit of high silliness in which the petty is elevated at the expense of whatever big picture the characters should be dealing with. For the band of survivors in This Is The End, the consideration of how to divide (or not) their only Milky Way bar becomes equal to the raging battle between Good and Evil.
Indeed, hell is other crybaby movie stars. A scene that exemplifies what Rogen and Goldberg do best comes about halfway through, when partygoer Emma Watson, who’s been out in the conflagration, returns to Franco’s house and announces there’s a zombie invasion. After she goes upstairs to get some sleep, the boys chatter about their new comrade (even the surliest among them, Danny McBride, admits he’s a huge Harry Potter fan). Baruchel, with the best of intentions, says that, with one girl among all these guys, he hopes they won’t give off a “bad vibe.” Robinson, thinking he’s clarifying things, says they shouldn’t give off a “rapey vibe.” As they bicker about who does or doesn’t come off as “rapey,” we remember that Franco built the house so that any conversation can be heard in any room. Watson is stirred awake by the whispered “rape rape rape,” and her reaction is explosive, and priceless.
The stars are uniformly excellent, whether rolling with previously established personas (McBride’s macho a-hole would have us think he’s not much different from his Eastbound and Down character Kenny Powers), or playing against them (Franco is a sentimental goofball who kinda has a crush on Rogen). Baruchel, the least known among them, has the pivotal role as the L.A.-hating, “just visiting” outsider who resents fellow Canadian Rogen’s whole-hog move to Hollywood. Baruchel ends up pissing off almost everyone in the house, but he’s the one who figures out what they need to do to come out on the right side of Judgment Day. Like many a Rogen/Goldberg character before them, these guys have got to make a choice between douchebaggery and menschitude.
Betsy Sherman has written about movies, old and new, for The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, and The Improper Bostonian, among others. She holds a degree in archives management from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science. When she grows up, she wants to be Barbara Stanwyck.