According to star, co-director and co-writer Seth Rogen, approximately 50 percent of “This Is The End” was improvised. After viewing the film, this number seems a generous under-estimation.
What you get out of watching “This Is The End” depends a lot on your tolerance for profane, unscripted comedy, actors making light of their own public image, and demonic erections. Not necessarily in that order.
In a summer that was crotch-deep in films that dealt with the Apocalypse, “This Is The End” is the one to watch if you like your End of Days dropped Biblical style. Rogen and co-stars James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and Jonah Hill plays versions of themselves, trapped in Franco’s Hollywood mansion as the Rapture unfolds outside the door, complete with hell-beasts, possession and a disconcerting amount of urine-drinking. The early stages of the film are also populated by many celebrity cameos, including Michael Cera (acting wildly against type), Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling and Emma Watson (funny and convincing wielding an axe).
At least everyone involved seems to be having a good time, riffing on and mocking themselves and each other, and they get decent mileage from satirizing the insular world they live in (as Hill says at one point “After an earthquake, who do they rescue first? Actors”). Franco in particular has a grand time goofing his public persona of renaissance artiste. During a confessional round-table where the leads discuss why they haven’t been taken to Heaven like the other good people, he confesses to sleeping with Lindsey Lohan (“She kept calling me Jake Gyllenhall. I asked her to call me Prince of Persia”).
Rogen and co-writer/director Evan Goldberg cobbled together the basic scenario, and kind of turn their cast loose in a plot that is unapologetically foul-mouthed and freewheeling. Just throw it all at the wall and see what sticks seems to have been the guiding priniciple. And some of it does stick. There are several laugh-out sequences with a sustained inventiveness, and a passle of good throwaway lines about egos, Hollywood stardom, and the challenges of genuine friendship in a world of one-upmanship. One scene in particular, involving a porn magazine and control of a certain bodily function, had me appalled and chuckling loudly at the same time.
But this improvisatory approach also lends itself to slap-dash construction, and inscrutable inside gags that fall flat. It’s about a 50/50 ratio for the most part, and not surprisingly, the less self-indulgent “This Is The End” is, the funnier it is. The plot follows an undemanding low-brow rigor that eventually works itself out in a literally heavenly cameo, and the last third of the film benefits from some surprisingly extravagant special effects that help cover the stretches of lazy humor. From Rogen’s description on the commentary track, one could assume these effects are where the budget went, as there was clearly not much need to hone the script.
The DVD edition of “This Is The End” is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, in a 2.40:1 ratio, and includes an Ultraviolet digital copy code. I liked the bright colors of flame and destruction against the suitably black backgrounds, and there is little compression that I could note. There are options for subtitles in English, English SDH, and French.
The Audio track is 5.1 Dolby Digital, and plays well, what with the explosions and shouting and demonic grunts and all. There are options for French language and English audio description tracks.
- A commentary track with Rogen and Goldberg, slight as most of these things are, but friendly and engaging, and interesting enough to merit a listen. Nugget of choice from Seth Rogen—in the bathroom scene, Michael Cera’s ass was computer-generated to give it a tan line and make it more “bubble-ish.”
- “Directing Your Friends” — An unexpectedly short making-of featurette focusing on Rogen and Goldberg in the directors’ chairs
- “This Is The Marketing” — A set of promotional materials, including some amusing outtakes from internet spots, what appears to be deleted material from the movie that was incorporated into media ads, and the “redband sizzle trailer” (more like a making-of than a proper trailer).
Sometimes witty and edgy, sometimes just sloppy, the apocalyptic comedy “This Is The End” has all the good and bad one could expect from a mostly improvised film starring Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and James Franco.