There’s an unlikely slew of movies that have made a resurgence during the pandemic, and This is The End is one of them. It’s easy to understand why upon a rewatch: characters quarantine together, society falls into disarray, and Michael Cera still feels relevant.
It’s not exactly the Superbad of its decade, which is a namesake many film critics handed over to Booksmart. However, This is The End is an ensemble comedy worth a second look.
By and large, every major character in the film is a celebrity playing a heightened version of themselves.
At first, This is The End feels like any other Seth Rogen produced comedy. Seth (as himself) and Jay Baruchel (as himself) meet up in Los Angeles to gear up for a big Hollywood party.
By and large, every major character in the film is a celebrity playing a heightened version of themselves, from Danny McBride as a ruthless cannibal to Paul Rudd running from the apocalypse with a bottle of wine clutched in the palm of his hands.
At a certain point, Rogen and Baruchel are forced to reckon with the reality that some sort of apocalypse has overtaken the earth. And so, they hole up at James Franco’s house and portion out scraps. The quarantined friends include Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Franco, and McBride. Disconnected from the outside world, or what’s left of it, the six friends slowly start lose their minds amidst a montage of home movies and dinner conversations.
Disconnected from the outside world, or what’s left of it, the six friends slowly start to lose their minds.
The script, written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express), doles out jokes even as it delivers exposition. It’s quick to spell out hints towards Rogen and Baruchel’s strained friendship. Although they’re old friends, there’s an undercurrent of tension between them almost immediately. These feelings largely go unaddressed until the growing pressure of quarantine forces them out into the open.
This through-line grounds the film and adds a much needed dose of realism to the sillier subplots about demonic possession. The arc of their friendship also leads to a surprisingly wholesome final act. That, and a rewarding appearance by the Backstreet Boys.
As fun and campy as it can be, the film doesn’t age well in its entirety. Notably, sexual allegations against Franco have gained more traction since the film’s release. The added context makes his confession scene more cringeworthy than ever. In an attempt at brutal honesty, he admits to kissing Lindsay Lohan without her consent. Oddly, Franco seems to unapologetically lean into the more lecherous aspects of his heightened self.
Additionally, a scene between the six friends and a beleaguered Emma Watson plays out in a disappointingly predictable fashion. Baruchel makes an offhand remark that the others quickly blow out of proportion. The exchange culminates in Watson hurriedly leaving, brandishing an ax.
As fun and campy as it can be, the film doesn’t age well in its entirety.
Although the men don’t appear to intentionally make light of sexual assault itself, it’s a shame that the scene exists at all. It’s telling that the one notable female character in the film would rather face a hellish apocalypse than bunker down at Franco’s place.
This is not to say that Rogen and Goldberg are holding up the main cast as esteemed role models. On the contrary, they often wink at the more monstrous sides of humanity. Most of these self-aware jokes still work in 2020; this one simply missed the mark.
Even still, there’s a lot here to love. Craig Robinson brings his A-game, as always. The CGI looks pretty realistic, all things considered. And there’s no shortage of laughs throughout.
The truth is, amidst the chaos and computer generated hell hounds, the film is relatively deep. This is The End ultimately boils down to a meditative satire on the human condition. Ironically, the cameo-laden comedy actually makes a case against the Hollywood elite.
This is The End ultimately boils down to a meditative satire on the human condition.
The writer-director team throw the pageantry and ego surrounding celebrity status out the window the second that a Rapture begins. Not a single glowing beam of heavenly light shines on a partygoer at Franco’s mansion. They’re all left to contend for survival in a new Mad Max wasteland or fall into gaping fiery pits.
The actors seem to even delight in playing parodies of themselves as their alter egos grow increasingly desperate. It was probably a cathartic acting exercise. Luckily it also makes for a pretty decent comedy, especially when you’re watching it while holed up with your friends.