Our review of Seth Rogen's apocalyptic Summer of Film cult comedy.
How does any respectable director approach creating a new apocalypse-themed motion picture these days? This Summer, both Seth Rogen and Edgar Wright face such a dilemma with their new movies This Is The End and The World's End respectively, and this reviewer is glad to say that in the former's case, the result is a qualified success. No matter what its minor shortcomings are, This Is The End still manages to be one of the most inventive comedy films of recent times.
More than ever, at the heart of this success is the movie's laud-worthy ensemble cast. The leads here are Seth, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, all of whom have considerable screen time in which to shine. Viewers may recall some of these cult stars better than other, yet each of them more than earns their spot on the top billing, garnering laughs from the audience that are rarely focused on the cheap gags or simplistic innuendos that so many ambitious comedies have fallen prey to in weeks gone by.
On top of that fine ensemble at the helm, as you'll no doubt have noticed from the marketing campaign, there's a considerable number of celebrity cameos to be discovered within the film's narrative. Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Rihanna, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd and Christopher Mintz-Plasse will all be glimpsed on-screen in the first ten minutes or so of the viewing experience, yet in many ways it's the surprises of which of these stars re-appear that provides one of the film's strongest assets in terms of initial dramatic impact. Unlike Movie 43 or Valentine's Day, each cameo here seems justified and beneficial to the movie's tone, rather than simply enacted to add another star's name to the cast list.
Another prevalent factor of success and the movie's overall high quality is the underlying 'cult'/'indie' tone of the production. There's a true sense here for the viewer that what Seth and Evan Goldberg have scribed here is a homage of sorts to the various fanbases of each member of the film's ensemble line-up, with everything from Spider-Man 3 to The Green Hornet to 127 Hours gaining a mention in a manner that never proves to the detriment of the script or the overall apocalyptic tone of the piece. Indeed, this is a rather innovative take on how members of humanity might react to the end of days, with the final act of This Is The End particularly unique when compared to the botched scientific explanations of recent efforts such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.
However, it's in the climax of the motion picture that one or two flaws reach the surface. Although for the most part, the 106 minute running time leads to a strong, well-paced structure whereby awkward situations or gags never outstay their welcome, and indeed where cameo appearances are given enough time to have their intended comedic impact, on the other hand in the last 20 minutes things begin to take a turn for the superfluous. Once the central setting of the first three-quarters of the piece is removed from the equation, with the survivors of the oncoming storm thrust out into the remains of Earth, we enter slightly more predictable territory that only regains the script's trademark innovation once the deus ex machina of proceedings is brought back into the fray. Trust me, that'll all make a lot more sense once you've seen the film itself, dear reader.
And make no mistake, This Is The End is a movie production that most certainly requires your time this Summer. Even though the running time perhaps could have been cut by around 5-10 minutes in order to make the climax a bit more effective, for the most part the narrative is structured incredibly intelligently, in fact moreso than any comedy movie this reviewer has seen since The Hangover in 2009. It's a pleasure confirm that by an immeasurable margin, This Is The End is the best comedy movie that's graced the big screen this year so far. When it comes to the realm of apocalyptic comedies, then, it seems that The World's End and any other genre entries still to come now have a new benchmark of quality to attain.