REVIEW: THIS IS THE END is one of those movies that's just painfully funny at times. By this, I mean it's the type of movie that makes you laugh so hard that you'll be doubled over in laughter, while the audience around you cackles so loudly you'll miss huge chunks of dialogue. At times it's so funny that it actually hurts, and when it was over I was hoarse from having laughed so hard.
THIS IS THE END is particularly funny if you've been following the careers of this gang since their early days on FREAKS & GEEKS and UNDECLARED. There are tons of in-jokes that poke fun of their numerous hits and misses. Nothing is sacred, not even their most painful flops, with jabs made at THE GREEN HORNET, YOUR HIGHNESS, SPIDER-MAN 3 and many others. Heck, Franco even spends half the movie carrying around his prop gun from FLYBOYS.
When I first heard that the actors would be playing exaggerated versions of themselves, I wasn't sure the gag would sustain a full movie. Thankfully I was wrong as this idea- which could have gone horribly awry- ends up being the thing that makes the movie. Everyone plays themselves as exactly what critics or non-fans have accused them of being in the past. Rogen's the schlubby stoner, Franco's pompous, McBride's a selfish hell-raiser, Robinson's the one-joke “take your panties off” guy, Hill's ultra-fake, and is constantly basking in the glow of his MONEYBALL Oscar nomination, while Baruchel acts above it all, as he's yet to “sell-out” by refusing to relocate to the town he says he hates.
As most of these guys have been acting together for 10+ years, you can bet their chemistry is spot on, and with Rogen himself directing (with frequent collaborator and pal Evan Goldberg) everyone's given full reign to exploit their talents in a way a lot of their other movies haven't allowed them to do in the past. For my money the best part of the movie is the opening party at Franco's house, which is jam-packed with cameos by Rogen and Baruchel's famous friends, including a brilliantly coke-addled Michael Cera, who's so good you'll wish he was one of the stars.Everyone brings their A-game, especially James Franco who brilliantly sends himself up, with his house being full of memorabilia like a giant CLOCKWORK ORANGE style penis sculpture (a sly nod to his work in gay-themed movies like INTERIOR LEATHER BAR, THE BROKEN TOWER, MILK, HOWL, and more) and jabs at his perceived pretentiousness.
Everyone seems keen to take the piss out of themselves, and that can't help but make THIS IS THE END an incredibly likable movie. For a movie about the end of the world, it's surprisingly charming, and Rogen and Goldberg seem to be taking a page out of movies like SHAUN OF THE DEAD and GHOSTBUSTERS. It's not as heartfelt or as brilliant as either of those movies, but it comes closer than you'd think. The no-holds-barred gore (with effects by Greg Nicotero), polished lensing by DP Brandon Trost (look for his brother, THE FP's eye-patched Jason Trost in a quick cameo) and the suitably grandiose score by Henry Jackman helps, as it makes it polished enough that even while it's non-stop funny, the movie itself is never a joke.
All in all, THIS IS THE END is a pretty brilliant comedy, and more than enough to not only make up for some of the stars' own misfires (like Rogen's THE GUILT TRIP), but also redeems the summer of 2013, which has been rough going for comedy thanks to movies like THE HANGOVER 3 and THE INTERNSHIP. Luckily, THIS IS THE END is only the first of a slew of comedies (with THE HEAT and the similarly themed THE WORLD'S END looking particularly promising) coming out before the end of the summer. But, even if this wasn't the case, THIS IS THE END has enough laughs for half-a-dozen movies, and definitely should not be missed.