This is the End seems to be an in-joke between a group of comedic actors. In the movie, these actors play themselves, sort of. That is to say, James Franco plays an actor named James Franco, Seth Rogen an actor named Seth Rogen and so on. In how far their actual personalities match the ones portrayed here, is for insiders to know. It’s clear that there is a lot of exaggeration and that some people play against their public persona. At least, I am pretty sure Michael Cera is not actually a coked up sleazehound, but who am I to say?
The conceit is that the apocalypse commences, while an actor-filled party at James Franco’s new, bunker-like home is in full swing. A surprisingly expensive-looking special effects sequence follows, which sees a lot of comedians in guest-starring roles meet their untimely demise. A small band of survivors huddle together in Franco’s fancy digs and try to figure out their next move. Outside, the earth is on fire and deadly creatures roam. Inside, tensions run high and supplies run low, especially after a misunderstanding with Emma Watson (starring as herself, of course) leads to conflict and the epic quote: ‘Hermione just stole all of our shit!’
It’s clear that the actors don’t mind making their fictional selves look like idiots, which is charming. Especially Jonah Hill makes himself vulnerable to ridicule, which actually serves to make his real-life self seem more sympathetic. James Franco plays an obnoxious caricature of himself, but looks a bit smug doing so. He’s the only one of the cast I didn’t like better by the end of the movie, always a bit aloof and untouchable.
This is the End is more fun the more you already know about these actors, their movies and their public personas. Being only moderately informed, I was aware of the occasional joke whizzing by above my head. Still, for an in-joke movie, it is surprisingly accessible and likeable, with an original concept. The movie serves up a platter of cheese at the grand finale, but also some interesting special effects. While the majority of scenes, in Franco’s house, make This is the End resemble an art-house movie, there’s enough of a budget to actually show the end of the world, rather than just hint at it. This won’t be a movie to everyone’s taste, but you won’t know until you try it, so I’d say, to Hell with it, just have a look.