The apocalypse has been the choice du jour for the movie world in the past couple years. Most of the ways to explore mankind's destruction have been explored: sci-fi (Oblivion), horror (28 Days Later), even rom-com (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World). This Is the End finds one of the last remaining ways to approach the apocalypse: humor. This Is the End will probably end up being the funniest movie of the year, earning its R rating with delightfully raunchy dialogue. I mean, what is funnier than a masturbation war described by James Franco and Danny McBride?
This Is the End opens with Jay Baruchel meeting Seth Rogen at the airport (all the actors play themselves in the film). After a fun afternoon doobie session, the pair head over to James Franco's new house where the party of the year is going on. When they go out to grab some cigarettes: BANG! the rapture is going on. After a series of misfortunes only 6 people barricade themselves in the house: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Rogen, and Baruchel. However, their jealousies and sins eventually come to fruition as they realize why they were left behind.
As bleak as the description above sounds, this movie is gut bustingly hilarious. Much like Anchorman or Grown-Ups, these guys clearly like to be around each other and riff off one another. This Is the End is closer to Anchorman on the humor scale though. The party must have been fun to film: Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, David Krumholz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, Rhianna, Emma Watson, Martin Starr, and Paul Rudd all make appearances and get little moments as versions of themselves. But the crème de la crème of cameos are twofold: a very coked-up sex addicted Michael Cera absolutely kills with his 10 minutes or so, and a secret cameo that is said early in the film involving a very game actor to agree to the role he is given.
Once sealed in Apatow team 6 is in the house together, the humor gets mixed in with the horror aspects very smoothly, using the 6 friends probably day-to-day conversation to great effect: the highlight being the masturbation discussion between Franco and McBride. This Is the End rides the comedic talents of all involved and the growing dramatic talents as well. The movie's anchor is Baruchel and Rogen's relationship, which is slightly on the ropes and keeps the jokes and dialogue relevant. Craig Robinson is actually pretty good at being the heart of This Is the End. His fate is especially rewarding. Hill, McBride, and Franco are given enough winking jokes at who they are to give them fun little extended personalities as well.
This Is the End has more than humor up its sleeve though. Horror is effectively blended into the proceedings to give This Is the End some stakes and even ok scares. The most of the effects/creatures are hidden for the first hour to let the audience use their imagination and stress the claustrophobia of the friends' situation. Darkness and creepy orange clouds create a nice sense of dread. The creatures are the weak point: mostly generic (with one obvious exception) and inspired by the Lord of the Rings.
Ensemble comedies success depends mostly on who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the film. Their films use the natural abilities of their actors to maximum effect, comedic and otherwise. This Is the End also establishes their credibility as a directing team. The balance between horror and comedy is very smooth and built around characters, not generic punch lines. They even came up with their two next films: Superbad 2 involving a coked up Michael Cera, and Pineapple Express 2 which has a chance to be amazing.