I’ve had, for some time, the suspicion that the current comedy troop of Rogen, Hill, Cera, and Franco would eventually get to the point where, instead of a script, they would just sit around and talk. Now we have This Is the End, and if this isn’t the logical conclusion of the gang’s comedy, it’s damn close.
The premise is that Jay Baruchel is in LA to visit his friend Seth Rogen. Their friendship has been on the skids, and Rogen’s insistence that they attend a party at James Franco’s house instead of, I don’t know, hang out and smoke weed. doesn’t help. At Franco’s they meet up with Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, and several others within or slightly out of their group’s ever-expanding radius, such as Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Martin Starr, Chritopher Mintz-Plasse, and now, I guess, Emma Watson.
Freak disruptions start to occur all over the place — sinkholes swallow up many of the party-goers, others are lifted to heaven in columns of blue light, fires explode across Hollywood, and the five find themselves barricaded in Franco’s house — until Danny McBride shows up and makes their sixth.
..and that’s basically it — the rest of the film focuses on the petty feuds and mutual dislikes among the survivors. So while all this is going on outside, we spend almost the whole of the movie indoors. My question is: If the premise exists merely to hole these guys up in one place, why did it need to be the apocalypse? Or anything at all? If the idea is to have guys riff off each other for 90 minutes, why not just go with that? Further still, one twist later on introduces an entirely new conceit, going from the apocalypse to demonic possession (and toss in confessionals and Sweding, too). Isn’t one idea, half-assedly explored, enough?
It’s not simply that the material isn’t funny; it’s that everything feels so extraordinarily lazy. If this is meant to be a gentle teasing of its actors, there’s more you can mock James Franco for than collecting homoerotic art (and I think it’s time to retire the sudden appearance of a penis trope). There’s more you chide Michael Cera for than doing coke (Hey look! He’s just the opposite of what you’d think!). There’s something just wrong with including Baruchel, Hill, and Rogen, whose personalities and schticks, at least here, are indistinguishable from each other. Even the special effects look cheap. Every turn, surprise guest, cultural reference, and attempt at humor is already a well-established trope that was used more cleverly in previous films like Superbad and Pineapple Express — and, yup, the dance number and ironic use of a song was funnier in 40-Year-Old Virgin. This isn’t the kind of film that makes you whine, “They could have done more with this”; it’s the kind of film that makes wonder how they possibly could have done less.
Maybe this is much funnier to the people making it; maybe the short it’s based on Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse is much funnier. But wow, how can so much talent produce something so lame? If this is their idea of fun, they don’t seem to know anything about it.