We live in a time rife with celebrity culture overload — the Fashion Police constantly rag on who wore what, celebrity tweets are recounted as if they’re actual news, and we consume Hollywood gossip as if it’s the most potent form of sustenance. And amidst all that, it has sort of become second nature to make judgments on those in the spotlight, as if we actually know anything about them. James Franco? Pretentious intellectual. Seth Rogen? Jovial pothead. Jay Baruchel? Awkward outcast. You see where I’m going with this. And it’s for that very reason that I was instantly drawn to the concept behind “This is the End,” the new apocalyptic comedy in which the aforementioned actors are playing those very (hilariously exaggerated) versions of themselves.
Joining them are Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride as six friends who, while partying at Franco’s L.A. mansion, witness what seems like an earthquake – that is, until beams of light start sucking people up into the sky and a fiery sink-hole forms in Franco’s front yard. It’s the Rapture, the beginning of the end. This claims the lives of a myriad of Hollywood stars in a cameo-packed scene featuring the likes of Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling and Emma Watson, along with a ton others. It’s at this moment that the insanity bar has been set – and I’ve got to hand it to them, it’s been set pretty damn high.
Co written and directed by “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express” partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, “This is the End” may very well end up being the absolute funniest movie of the year. It’s an outrageous mix of hilarious self-referential winks, movie spoofs/references, gross out gags, and of course, the sort of raunchy, juvenile humor that will either have you in a fit of hysterics or rolling your eyes at the overt stupidity before you.
However “This is the End” is at its very best not when pumping out the low-brow laughs, but when tackling satire and selfparody. These guys are more than willing to poke fan at themselves, even taking jabs at the more unfortunate additions to their filmography. (And with movies like “The Green Hornet” and “Your Highness” in the mix, this is only too easy.) Nothing and no one comes out unscathed. Franco’s ambiguous sexuality takes a few hits, as does the idea that Hill’s Oscar nomination for “Moneyball” has turned him into something of a narcissist.
That’s another thing that’s gleefully used for target practice here: the self-entitlement and vanity that permeate much of Hollywood. With the six of these guys now stuck in Franco’s fortress-like home, they’ve got nothing to do but wait and hope help is on the way. Jonah Hill isn’t worried though. “A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors!” he proclaims early on. “They’ll get Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me…if there’s room you guys will come. The point is that we’re all going to get out of this first.”
Such is not the case though. Friendships are put to the test. Egos are in full swing. And the mayhem and chaos only continue to mount, culminating in an ending so over-the-top and so beyond words,that it can’t help but be just a little bit brilliant.