This Is the End (2013)
"This Is the End"? More like "This Is the BOMB!" This end-of-the-world comedy from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is by far the funniest movie that's come out this year, a downright riotous take on both spoiled Hollywood celebrities and the apocalypse meme that Harold Camping and the Mayans popularized in the last few years. Whether it's with crazy cameos, the main characters' asshole behavior, the sort of Apatow-esque humor that much of this film's cast is associated with, or its downright messed-up take on the likes of both Mad Max and Left Behind, This Is the End is an absolute blast that must be seen as soon as possible.
The main thing driving this film is its all-star cast featuring a large chunk of the "Apatow crew" of comic actors who have made it big in the last several years -- Seth Rogen (who also co-wrote and co-directed), Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride, all playing exaggerated versions of themselves. All of them have been, to quote Bruno Mars, locked out of Heaven due to the fact that they're all a bunch of pretentious, two-faced little twats who hide their douchebaggery under their well-manicured public personas, a fact that's made pointedly clear when we see that nobody has been Raptured up from James Franco's party in his Hollywood Hills mansion. Over the course of the film -- and after a series of misadventures involving demons, drugs, sticky issues of Penthouse, and Emma Watson -- they learn to drop their BS and learn how to be good people.
It feels strange saying this, but this film, a hard-R comedy that's filled with sexual humor, implied rape, tons of marijuana, and a great many scenes that can only be described as straight-up perverted, is a better Christian film than most "inspirational" direct-to-video Walmart movies are. Rather than giving us incorruptibly pure, borderline-insufferable "Mary Sue" protagonists who have no real flaws (oh, he and his wife argue, what heathens!) and don't learn any real lessons because they're already close to perfect as it is, here we get people who are clearly assholes being forced to become better human beings, confronting their sins and their self-centered attitudes, if they want salvation. One scene near the end, involving one particular character squandering his shot at going to Heaven, only drives this home. Combine that with the fact that this film employs explicitly Christian imagery (the Rapture, multi-headed demons, a mountain engulfed in flame) for its apocalypse, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this film was written by born-again evangelicals, or at least people from that background.
That is, if you somehow managed to miss the mountain of unbelievably un-Christian humor that forms this film's real bedrock. Reviewing a comedy, especially a good one, is difficult because I can't go into detail without ruining the jokes, but I'll try to sum it up. The first act spends its time riffing on the personas of both its lead actors and various celebrities who show up as themselves in cameos (four words: Michael Cera on coke) before getting killed off in spectacular fashion in a set piece that was legitimately thrilling. The second act revolves around the six leads fighting to survive in James Franco's mansion, arguing over their dwindling supplies and their increasingly squalid living state. Last but certainly not least, the third act parodies both post-apocalyptic films and religious horror in truly hilarious fashion, culminating in a musical reunion that will make any child of the '90s smile from ear to ear even if they claim to hate the band in question (whose identity I will not spoil).
On top of this, for first-time directors Rogen and Goldberg show a surprising amount of chops behind the camera. Not only do they have the expected sense of comic timing, but the action scenes are thrilling, a consequence of both great special effects and a sense of coherence resulting from the employment of tripods and Steadicam rather than shaky handheld cameras like so many action scenes nowadays. Furthermore, one scene in the middle where Craig Robinson is being chased by a demon was, at times, legitimately scary, especially with how it kept the demon off-camera.
Score: 5 out of 5
This is easily the best work that most of its stars have done in years. If any of them were in a slump, this should pull them straight out of it. It's both smart and absolutely hysterical, a film that absolutely must be seen to be believed.