MODERATE SPOILER ALERT!
I have a friend who has little knowledge of modern pop culture. He saw only three new films in 2012: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Les Misérables, and at my request/demand, Seth MacFarlane’s brilliantly funny Ted. He enjoyed it (who doesn’t enjoy a pot-smoking teddy bear?), but was unable to fully appreciate how clever its humour was, as he didn’t understand any of the movie/tv references- to Flash Gordon or to Family Guy. I can’t imagine what he would make of This is the End, a film which almost entirely relies on references to its stars’ previous work, and the reputations and careers of other stars, for humour. It’s still, for someone familiar with the actors, a hilarious comedy.
Jay Baruchel, whom i’ve had little tolerance for in the past, is a very engaging and likable lead, as although he doesn’t have the most screen-time, he is the New York tourist in LA at the time of the Apocalypse who doesn’t fit in with James Franco and his friends. Seth Rogen, co-director, writer and producer, probably gets made fun of the least amongst the gang, although there is a laugh-out-loud scene towards the beginning during which Baruchel mocks his decision to go on a gluten-free diet. Jonah Hill comes out of this film looking like a 100% total douchebag, and it will take a while for me to forget about how much I hated him in This is the End. When he is possessed by a demon and Baruchel attempts to exorcise him, the film finds its strong point- a mix of mockery of its leads and the modern interpretation of religion. This scene is wildly funny, but has been used as a promotional clip, despite the fact it comes quite late on in the story. If I had not seen this clip three or four times in advance of the film, I would have appreciated it far more. Franco does a good job, and his interest in contemporary art is used to much avail as the butt of jokes.
The action-horror climax is shockingly impressive, considering the film’s apparent $40m budget. A brief Backstreet Boys-related set-piece will go right over the heads of anyone who isn’t in the direct demographic of the film’s stars, including myself, who was not born in the US in the late 1980s. This is a surprisingly original comedy, and is far superior to most of the trash we are being offered right now. However, the script isn’t up to the plot’s ambitions, and overall lets the film down.