Seth Rogen made a bold decision in his directorial debut This is the End (which he co-wrote and co-directed with Evan Goldberg) that could have just as easily blown up in his face. He stars as himself, as do his friends/co-stars Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson in this comedy about what happens when actors survive the rapture. My review of the Blu-ray of This is the End follows after the jump.
The film opens with Seth picking up Jay from the airport. Jay lives in Canada and doesn’t like the LA scene, and so he’s reluctant to go to a party at James Franco’s house, as he knows Seth might abandon him while he chats up more famous people. They go anyway and there are celebs at the party, including a very coked up Michael Cera (in a hilarious play on his nice guy image), Rihanna and Emma Watson, to name a few. Jay wants to get some cigarettes, and so Seth tags along as Jay grumbles that what he feared would happen is exactly what happened, and he felt abandoned. But then the rapture happens, and the world is thrown in a post-apocalyptic frenzy as the good are raptured up to heaven, while everyone else stays on Earth. As the two make it back to Franco’s, the film gets one of its best jokes: no one at the party noticed because none are good enough to go to heaven.
Then a sinkhole appears outside of Franco’s house and everyone starts dying and so Seth, Jay, Jonah Hill, James and Craig Robinson all barricade themselves in the house and take stock of their supplies. What they don’t know is that Danny McBride had passed out in the bathroom, and he totally missed the rapture and the aftermath. Though no one else is willing to admit it, Jay starts reading the bible, and explains what happened: this is the end of world as prophesized. But as the six are stuck in the house with dwindling supplies, tension rise between the group, especially since McBride is a total pig. But it turns out there’s still hope to go to heaven.
With everyone playing themselves, This is the End could have devolved into a series of in-jokes about our familiarity with these performers, but Rogen and Goldberg make sure that everyone is playing characters/caricatures of themselves. Half play to their likeable selves, while McBride is shown to be as much like Kenny Powers as possible, and Jonah Hill (who’s gotten some flack for being an ass in press situations), plays himself as the guy who’s nice about everything, but is actually a jerk in disguise. But it’s James Franco who comes off best embracing his image as a weirdo, and as someone who has a possibly sexual man-crush on Rogen. Everyone manages to be charming and likeable while poking fun at themselves, but the film never stops to wink about it. This doesn’t feel like the best party you weren’t invited to, which is sometimes the problems with films like Ocean’s Eleven. And the target of satire here is actors, phonies who are ill-equipped to deal with the situation they’re in, and often make things worse. It’s a tonal balancing act that the duo directors manage well.
The film was obviously done on a budget, which is sometimes reflected in some CGI shots that aren’t that great, but it makes sense that they would all hole up in one location. And though you can feel the claustrophobia at certain points, it’s then when they do things like make a sequel to The Pineapple Express (with Hill playing Woody Harrelson). It’s a slight film but the ending, which makes the whole thing about friendship, does work like gangbusters.
There are minor criticisms worth making (McBride’s over the top character is best in small doses, though his character gets paid off beautifully), but the film is mostly a joy, and often hilarious, from how someone will do a line reading (from Cera’s “Say cheese, baby” to Franco’s “He’s got to go.”) to classic set up/pay offs. And as a “hang out” film, it’s a pleasure spending the time with these performers.
Sony’s Blu-ray comes with a DVD and digital copy, and is mastered in 4K and presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. Though the film isn’t really a demo disc, the transfer is clean and a strong representation of how the film is supposed to look, while the audio track is slightly more impressive, which is not surprising considering the horror-esque elements of the film. Though the disc isn’t stacked like a Judd Apatow special edition, there’s a lot of bonus content here, including a commentary by Rogen and Goldberg. It takes the two a little bit to get warmed up, but after they stop noting what was a location and what was a set, and that they didn’t shoot in Los Angeles, they start goofing around, and the track picks up.
The first featurette is ‘Directing Your Friends” (6 min.) which is a light look at the cast and filmmaking process, while “Meta-Apocalypse” (8 min.) acknowledges the self-awareness involved in the making of the film. “Let’s Get Technical” (11 min.) gets into the stunts, cinematography and special effects in the movie, while “Party Time” (13 min.) spotlights the film’s cameos, and “The Cannibal King” (4 min.) shows McBride working the actor who makes a cameo toward the end of the film. “The Making of “The Making of Pineapple Express 2”” (6 min.) is self-explanatory, while the original short that inspired the film, “Jay and Set Vs. the Apocalypse” (10 min.), is also included. Then comes “Line-O-Rama” (13 min.) for three scenes, a gag reel (6 min.), eight deleted scenes (15 min.), and a section for marketing. In it are outtakes (7 min.), four confessional videos (4 min.), a promo video on the cast (4 min.) and a red band sizzle trailer (2 min.)