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This is the End (2013)

Josh Reviews This is the End

In This is the End, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride play themselves, attending a housewarming party at James Franco’s new home, a party this is unfortunately interrupted by, well, the end of the world.  Co-written and co-directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (based on the fake trailer Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, written by Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Rogen, and Jason Stone — click here to watch),the result is a hilarious horror/comedy that careens from humor drawn from the familiar Apatow source of stoner buddies hanging out (a scene early in the film in which Jay and Seth argue over the merits of a gluten-free diet is a particular stand-out) to full-on special-effects end-of-the-world horror craziness.

This is a film that shouldn’t work.  One might expect it to be indulgent and boring, or to collapse under the weight of a small-budget film reaching for a mega-budget epic scale.  But instead, I found This is the End to be a crazy, rollicking delight, funny and endearing from start to finish.

After having watched this group of comedic actors work together so many times before, in so many different combinations and permutations… after having watched them grow up on screen (like many, I have been watching a lot of these guys since Paul Feig & Judd Apatow’s masterful Freaks and Geeks in 1999)… and after having watched so many DVD special features in which we see these guys goofing off and palling around, it’s easy for viewers to feel like we know all of these guys as if they were our own friends.  Of course, they’re not our friends, and we don’t really know them.  But in having all of these actors play themselves (rather than characters with different names who just so happen to fit into each of their established comedic personas), This is the End cannily plays on the audience’s pre-existing connection to these guys, and our presumed knowledge of them.  We already know and love this group of fellas, so the movie doesn’t need to waste any time developing their characters.  We can jump right into the story.

It’s fun to watch a movie that feels like we’re seeing what these guys are really like when they hang out.  Even though of course this isn’t what they’re really like — even here, playing characters with their own names, none of these actors are really playing themselves.  They are playing comically exaggerated versions of themselves.  It’s like the difference between real-life Larry David and the Larry David we see on Curb Your Enthusiasm.  The film finds a magical sweet spot in presenting versions of these characters that, upon consideration, are … [continued]