Following the extensive media hype surrounding “This is the End,” the film was in danger of being revealed as one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Instead, it turns out to be the most hilarious and enjoyable comedies of the summer — if not the whole year.
What originally began as the 2007 short “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse” has been adapted into a feature-length film, marking the directorial debut for longtime writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The pair first began working together at age 15 on what would become, years later, 2007’s “Superbad.”
The basic premise of “This is the End” is that the apocalypse hits while Rogen and his best friend from Canada, Jay Baruchel, are attending a party at James Franco’s outrageous mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Rogen, Franco and Baruchel, along with Danny McBride, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, star as exaggerated versions of themselves, supported by an array of celebrity cameos, including Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Jason Segal and a few others that should be left as a surprise.
The central cast members are phenomenal, drawing out the best in one another without falling into smugness or one-upmanship. There was a risk that the volume of improv would leave the film feeling disjointed; however, Rogen and Goldberg’s directing style gives the cast the freedom to create moments of sublime hilarity while keeping them on track and preserving a clear, if thin, storyline. Another surprising highlight of the film is the technical aspect, featuring impressive special effects that are unusual and unexpected in a comedy of this nature.
There is a sense that the apocalyptic theme hints at something more personal than real-world anxieties about environmental problems and economic crisis. Several of the cast members — notably, Jonah Hill and James Franco — have tended in recent years to leave comedy behind in order to pursue more serious and dramatic roles. It seems as though the makers are suggesting that the comic subgenre that Rogen and his gang are famous for — stoner comedy based on the immaturity of men who should be old enough to know better — has peaked and is on its way out. This film seems to represent the closing of that chapter.
The feeling of finality is hard to shake, yet it adds a tenderness to the film, as the viewers, most likely longtime fans of Rogen and his team, have grown up with these films and are now perhaps ready to leave them behind. There is also a warmth in how the film renders the vulnerability of male friendship, interspersing moments of sweet and sensitive humor among the more aggressive comedy, a skill Rogen and Goldberg previously demonstrated in films such as “Superbad,” “Pineapple Express” and “50/50.” “This is the End” is arguably the team’s best film — a film that leaves you laughing so hard you will forget about any potential drawbacks.