THIS IS THE END. Starring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, amd Jason Segel. Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. 107 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong crude humour, coarse language, sexual references, comedic violence, nudity and drug use).
This is the end! But, in fact, it was only the title at the beginning. After fifteen minutes of a Hollywood stoner party, it really seemed as if it were the end. But then there is a huge earthquake, a vast chasm in front of a mansion and some of the guests, not without deserving it, fall in and descend into hell. In the distance, others are taken up in the rapture. And then the film goes on for another hour and a half.
The film is a Hollywood in-joke. It is very much an exercise in self-indulgence as well as self-promotion for its stars.
The film was written and directed by comedian Seth Rogen and his writing counterpart for several films, including Superbad, Evan Goldberg. The film opens with Seth Rogen as himself, or a chosen version of himself, meeting Jay Baruchel at LA airport. They hang out for a while together and then go to a party at James Franco’s house, Franco also playing himself or a version of himself. Amongst the many guests are Jonah hill, Craig Robinson and, for a while, Michael Cera playing a crude version of what he might want to be (or thought of) before he is impaled on his way to hell. Of all people, Emma Watson turns up, certainly in different company from what she is used to.
Most of the film is interaction between the five survivors as well as Danny McBride, who also turns up uninvited. Not one of this reviewer’s favourite actors (see/don’t see Your Highness, Thirty Seconds or Less), but with his blunt saying what he thought and acting it out, he seemed to be the funniest of the group. There are many references to the films all of the leading players have made as well as to other movies. This is slightly amusing for those who know the actors.
In the attempts at survival, the cast indulges in what they do in most of their stoner films, Pineapple Express, Super, Your Highness… There is a continuity of crass jokes which tend to go on and on because there are no time limits on the screenplay. Plenty of scatological humour. Plenty of drugs. And most of the characters showing their meaner sides. Response to the humour depends on one’s liking for the actors themselves and their styles, Seth Rogen generally being nice but cowardly, but not always, Jay Baruchel trying to be self a righteous. Craig Robinson has some funny lines, especially about race. And Jonah hill, pretending to like Baruchel when he really loathes him, finally becomes possessed by a devil and there is a parody of The Exorcist.
And then come the devils, Godzilla-size monsters trampling over a burning Los Angeles. But, there are moments of redemption, with an exploitation of the theme of the rapture. And then there is heaven, with most people in white, better-dressed than at earthly parties, which is really just another stoner party.
There is a paraphrase of themes from the Book of Revelation, some discussion about heaven and hell and the presence of God, some attempts of hope of the end for people to be their better selves and experience the rapture. Fans of the stars will inevitably be filled with rapture. The rest of us will remain stranded on earth, either still sitting in our seats or having gone out to do something better with the rest of our lives.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out July 18, 2013.