Admit it: you’ve wondered, when you find yourself pondering the multifarious endtimes we’re living in, just which celebrities will survive whatever apocalypse we’re overdue for. When New York is reduced to random protons by a passing alien starfleet, which Law and Order cast members will make it out alive? When a zombie plague sweeps over London, which members of the royal family will have to destroy the diseased brains of which others in order to prevail? And when the 9.9 earthquake or crustal displacement or solar flares or the Yellowstone supervolcano takes out Los Angeles, my god, the celebrity bodycount will be unthinkable. Who among our Famous Elite will live to see the morning after?
(Actually, I see a whole series of films in this…)
Now it can be told, in the case of one particular sort of apocalypse the nature of which I will not spoil (though it could have been cleverer than it is). This Is the End is the tale of how one particular celeb posse fares over the course of one horrific night of, erm, horror and devastation and stuff blowing up and sinkholes and running low on booze and bacon, and the even more horrific days that follow.
My god, I love this movie. I, er, died laughing, unlike some of the famous people playing hilarious sendups of themselves onscreen, who just die. I did not expect this, because I am no fan of this particular posse and have found most of their films tedious and desperately unfunny. But I have a new respect for them because they very clearly do not take themselves too seriously and are not above acknowledging just how very terrible much of their output has been.
The posse is the one that has accreted around Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, writers and, here, debuting directors. They wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express and The Watch, movies that have appalled me with their idiocy, though they have not been above throwing me a curveball like The Green Hornet, which is smart and clever and which I really like. And now they have twisted into warped “reality” a story about “Seth Rogen” (Seth Rogen: 50/50, Paul) and his bestie “Jay Baruchel” (Jay Baruchel: Cosmopolis, Goon) who go to a party at the Los Angeles home of “James Franco” (James Franco: The Iceman, Oz the Great and Powerful) on the evening that all hell happens to break loose.
It’s funny because of course James Franco would be one of the celebs to survive the apocalypse. Because what can’t the guy do? It could, in fact, well be part of his latest enormous performance art project to arrange an apocalypse that he would survive in some fashion that would be meta and culturally aware and introspective and a commentary on how we fetishize celebrities. As part of his PhD in Hollywood Anthropology.
It’s funny because everyone onscreen — also including Jonah Hill (Django Unchained, 21 Jump Street) as “Jonah Hill” and Craig Robinson (Shrek Forever After, Hot Tub Time Machine) as “Craig Robinson” and Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Year One) as “Michael Cera” and Danny McBride (Your Highness, Due Date) as “Danny McBride” and many others — is poking fun at himself, at his public persona, and at the notion that it’s possible that our perception of a celebrity may be entirely different from the reality of him as an actual human being… and how the reality of him as a human being may be somewhat at odds with his ability to endure in “real life” the sorts of things he’s made a very good living pretending to endure onscreen for our entertainment. (End is mostly about guys, alas; the brief cameo by Emma Watson [the Harry Potter saga] as “Emma Watson” could have done with being meatier. But she is funny, and her presence does allow the movie a moment to contemplate how odd and even disturbing the gender imbalance in typical such cinematic scenarios is.)
It’s funny because these guys fill some postapocalypse time hunkered down in “James Franco”’s house by making terrible “sequels” to their films now that it’s clear that they’ll never get made by Hollywood thanks to the whole end-of-the-world thing. (Have you been waiting for Pineapple Express II? Here it is… shot on the camcorder from 127 Hours. “Franco” saves all his props, you see. From his good movies, too.) The delicious irony of This Is the End does not escape me: it wouldn’t be nearly as funny if I hadn’t seen — and hated — all the previous shitty movies these guys have made together. Though even everyone who loved their previous shitty movies will probably love this, too.
There’s one or two head-scratchers here, such as the one rapey joke that’s actually about rape culture and smacks it good and made me think, Wow, these guys get it… until the next rapey joke that’s just weird and icky and straight-up rapey and not-getting-it-at-all. But mostly End is sweet in ways that the oeuvre of Rogen and Goldberg has tried to be in the past and failed: “Bromance doesn’t stop for the apocalypse” is kind of a nice thing for a movie to be about. For Rogen-and-Goldberg values of “nice,” at least.