A Night Gone Totally Wrong. Buddies Trying to Make it Right
On a regular night in Hollywood, during a large celebrity-filled party, James Franco’s new artsy mansion, or fortress as he calls it, becomes a temporary safe house amidst an apocalypse. It’s really the Rapture that’s occurring and all of the ostensibly “good” citizens have been transported up into heaven by blue beams of light. Suffice it to say, Franco’s entire guest-list consisting of actors, comedians, and even non-invitees, remain earthbound. Is it a critique about God’s wrath on superficiality? Do comedians really pay for their intolerant and blasphemous jokes? Is Los Angeles the heart of evil? Maybe. Or it’s just a perfect place and situation for an outrageous and uproarious dude comedy to hunker down and get raunchy.
This Is The End, directed and co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is an elaboration off the two’s 2007 short film “Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse.” The Jay is for Jay Baruchel and the two remain the leading characters as the film opens with Rogen waiting in the airport for Baruchel who’s coming to visit for the weekend. As they leave, a TMZ style reporter slyly videotapes Seth, insisting he do his signature laugh to which he sourly obliges. Rogen and Baruchel, and for that matter everyone in the movie, plays some quasi-real version of themselves. It makes their jokes zing and their acting careers conceited in the apocalyptic lava of their movie-star self-deprecation.
The motley crew of trash-talkers comes mostly from the Judd Apatow school and includes the Master of Ceremonies and Seth’s co-star in Pineapple Express James Franco (who exhibits a curiously strong man crush for him) as well as a creepy-kind Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, sporting a T-Shirt with sexual instructions. They visit Franco’s party so Seth can get Jay to warm up to his newer group of elite friends, but after earthquake tremors and hot magma sinkholes start erupting, Jay has no choice in the matter. The many recognizable faces at this party- a coked-out Michael Cera, Rihanna, Aziz Anzari- have unfortunate outcomes and the few that remain like Emma Watson are driven to instinctual violent deeds. The Hollywood Hills burn and outside the J.J. Abrams-esque beams of light have ceased, turning the earth into the modern pits and trenches of hell. The five huddle together, making inventory of food and supplies.
Danny McBride becomes the sixth member after waking up naïve and hung over, unaware of the morning’s destruction and bunkered affair. Easily his most comically lewd and grotesque performance, he incites “Lord of the Flies” rivalries, most notably between he and Franco as they ration their weed, candy bars, and limited alcohol in the boarded up mansion. It plays like one of the more successful apocalyptic comedies, 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead,” as the guys often become stuck in the minutia of their trivial arguments over name calling and Milky Way sharing. In one scene, they skittishly kick a severed head around like a soccer ball, too afraid to touch it or let it be in their general direction. You could call this group the “frat-pack,” a collective of hairy, overgrown man-children who resort to pot and semen jokes for their problems and relatively mild ecstasies.
The chaos outside is more dangerous than what duck tape can prevent, and it’s not “Sink-hole de Mayo” as Jonah Hill suggests. Baruchel nervously posits and soon accurately describes that this is biblical and that their terrestrial presence means they have not been redeemed yet. But their temporary conditional kindness- exhibited in compliments about each others’ films- is not a feat that will save them. The Rapture becomes a heavier way of instilling perspective to these actors who have sacrificed relationships over their petty insecurities. Some of these are in their narcissistic movie credit recitals. “Dear God, it’s Jonah Hill from Moneyball,” he prays in order to clarify. The meta-commentary exists in insults too, as McBride bashes both the Green Goblin and Hornet, roles of Franco and Rogen, and even his own flop Your Highness. In their boredom, they make a homemade follow-up to Pineapple Express.
Is this how these guys would really act together? It’s a question moot and maybe potentially unknown once the surprisingly well-orchestrated and well-hung CGI demons take over the neighborhood. When their escape becomes a matter of character and morals, the race for ascension is on and the next question becomes which characters will reach the coveted hedonist heaven or savage hell. So many entertainers and countless unseen have died. The proportions are epic. The comedy is inane. Let your amount of belly laughs (which should be the highest total of the year so far) dictate what these men deserve.