“You want to do what?” said the stunned Sony Pictures exec to a crowded room full of studio analysts and three young men seated across the shimmering black table. Seth Rogen looked over to James Franco before speaking, then turned back with conviction and said, “yeah, we want to make a full fledged apocalyptic comedy set at a party at James Franco’s house.” The executive looked down at his paper, and whispered over to a colleague while James and Seth exchanged words with Jay Baruchel, Seth’s less-famous best friend, who was involved with the short film Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse that they made in 2007. The studio executives were perplexed at the notion of a film being made with actor’s playing characterized versions of themselves. They couldn’t miscount the success that Rogen had with Superbad in 2007 and then Pineapple Express with Franco in 2008, both with Sony.
The duo met as unknowns on the set of Judd Apatow’s TV series Freaks and Geeks which began airing in 1999. Over the years each of their own individual projects and pursuits continued to mount with more and more success. So with that the studio sent Rogen on his way to direct this new concept movie with his long time collaborator Evan Goldberg. Of course this scenario isn’t entirely 100% reality, but I’m sure there were conversations along the way where people had to be convinced that this was going to be a good idea. The gamble will have played off for all involved as, “This is the End” is a truly unique comedy idea mixing several genres, while both providing comedy, some good scares, gore, and even a few thought provoking ideas about life, eternity and how we all may fit in to that equation.
Rogen has assembled most of his entertainment industry buddies to lend their appearances, names and perceived personalities to the screen as celebrity friends having a good ole party at James Franco’s house on a random evening. Seth has just picked up Jay from a flight in from Canada where they both grew up, and the pair haven’t seen each other in awhile. Seth has had more success than Jayl over the past few years and the two have drifted since Jay isn’t a fan of the Los Angeles scene anymore. The duo quickly arrive at Franco’s house and run into friends: a very kind Jonah Hill, a drugged out, hyper sexed Michael Cera, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, David Krumholtz, and The Office’s Craig Robinson having a drink with Emma Watson herself. The party gets going with a good ole retro Backstreet Boys tune and eventually Jay wants to escape to buy some cigarettes. Shortly thereafter the rapture happens, yes - the rapture - which swipes up much of the population into the heavens through beams of blue light.
Upon arriving back at the party, no one is aware of what is happening until a huge sink hole opens up in front of James’ house sucking many of the partygoers to their doom. The surviving group of friends are pent up in the house having to fight for the remaining water, candy bars and booze while trying to figure out what to do next. Much of the rest of the plot relies on the comedic talents of the cast and the witty script crafted by Goldberg and Rogen, along with their direction and all the elements make this a very funny comedy film. Much of the humor comes as the actors make fun of themselves, their industry, and ultimately the roles they play as storytellers in movies. The comedy also has plenty of jokes involving drugs, sex, bodily functions, as well as the role of perceived sexuality among actors.
The film is definitely entertaining, yet about half way through there is a lull as the story seems to slow down by the limitations of what can happen in a home with six characters vying for resources as they disappear around them. Things eventually get going again and lead to an entertaining end ofthe second act, and a very nice conclusion that may be one of my most favorite endings to a movie in a very long time. I found the concept of the rapture interesting to be handled by Hollywood, especially through the eyes of Rogen and Goldberg. If this is the kind of rapture story these guys could come up with, maybe they should be hired to adapt the Left Behind books. They could possibly stand to use a comedic upgrade. It is no doubt that this film will be a success and further propel those responsible to bigger and greater endeavors, in the here and now and quite possibly on the other side of that big gleaming blue light that may one day appear and take us all to a better place. That is, if we aren’t a-hole actors, since they all got left behind. Maybe not being rich and famous has its eternal perks after all.