There’s nothing worse than a trailer for comedy that shows all the jokes, so once you’re in the cinema, the only things left are the exposition and awkward struggle for an emotional payoff. Well, This is the End is not that. The trailer is hilarious and packed with solid jokes. And even with all the teasers, sneak peeks and pre-release extras that come with an Apatow affiliated movie, that mountain of promotional material is still only a fraction of the non-stop jokes hurled at you every second of This is the End. And the best part is, almost all of them hit their mark.
The trailer sets up what you’ll be dealing with. Most of the Apatow crew, playing themselves, with a few pop culture cameos thrown in, are at a party at James Franco’s house. The drugs, drink and douche baggery flow thick and fast until rudely interrupted by the apocalypse. In what has the be one of the biggest mass character killings in comedy film history, almost everyone is offed in the first third, then the real movie kicks in. How do entitled, spoilt, selfish, pampered, useless movie stars deal with a crisis?
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the movie focuses on Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robertson, Danny McBride, James Franco and Jay Baruchel playing heightened, not so flattering versions of themselves. But that’s just the beginning. What drives the story, the laughs and even the heart of This is the End, is how it uses preconceptions about these guys, and Hollywood stars in general. It reinforces some stereotypes and character traits, overblows others to insane levels and flips a few completely on their head in ways that make sure there are plenty of surprises long after you expect the premise to have run out of steam. It’s also great to see that nothing, including dubious film choices the actors have made in real life in the past, seems to be off limits. The Green Hornet, Your Highness and their shared success based on playing Apatow-style man children all come under fire.
Writers (and first time directors) Rogen and Evan Goldberg have clearly learnt a lot under Judd Apatow and his fingerprints are all over this. Especially in the vulgarity to heart ratio. It’s a tried and tested recipe, plenty of swearing, insults and consistent aggression throughout, that somehow makes the heart and emotional climax seem totally earned and not at all schmaltzy. I really was surprised at how invested I was in the “lesson” the heroes need to learn to survive the end of the days. And even though I knew what was coming and had predicted exactly how it would happen the first time I saw the bright blue beams of light, Rogen and Goldberg manage to find plenty of ways to add twists and turns before you get there. Especially through their use of the core characters. I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say not all of them learn a lesson, find redemption or get a happy ending.
This is the End is exactly what I was hoping for going in. I’m a fan of the Apatow stable and got what I wanted. Rogen and Goldberg prove jokes can be profane and smart at the same time, they prove the third act of a comedy doesn’t have to lose all momentum just so they can wrap up the plot, and they prove that they might have the healthiest perspective of anyone in Hollywood about how lucky they are the live the lives they live. It takes real talent to highlight how much better you have it than your audience, but still make your characters sympathetic.