By Will Ashton
Comedy is subjective, but I believe most people can agree that this has been a pretty lackluster year for comedies so far.
Between Movie 43, A Haunted House, Identity Thief, 21 and Over, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Scary Movie V, The Big Wedding, Peeples, The Hangover Part III, and The Internship, just to name a few, it’s pretty safe to say that the first half of 2013 has been pretty flat when it comes to the laughs.
Now that the second half of the year is starting to come about, we can only hope that it is better than the first, at least in the comedy department. While I can’t say for sure if it will be, if This is the End is any sign of things to come, then things are, thankfully, going to be shaking up a bit.
After a year living out of L.A., Jay Baruchel reunites with his good friend, Seth Rogen. After spending a majority amount of the day getting high and playing video games, Rogen invites Barcuchel to come to James Franco’s party in his new house. Reluctantly, Barchuchel agrees to come along, hoping that their time together will reconnect their friendship.
However, they soon realize that their party will end sooner than they anticipated when they discover that the apocalypse is happening outside their door. As a number of party-goers meet their end, including a number of high-listed celebrities, it’s quickly revealed that Franco, Rogen, Barchuchel, and party guests Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and, later, Danny McBride are the only ones left alive. Together, they test their friendships together during the end of times.
In their directorial debuts, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make not only the first legitimately funny mainstream comedy of the year, but also produce their best script together since Superbad. Based on the short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse that the two made together several years ago with director Jason Stone (who executive produced), the premise allows room for a great deal of self-depreciating and elbow-shoving comedy, which the two writer-directors, mostly, live up to.
In addition to being very funny, what makes this script so good is how smart and, surprisingly, heartfelt it is. Much like Superbad, there’s more to this movie than simple dick jokes and f-bombs. It is full of themes of friendship and growing up. As a result, when the film reaches its final moments, in addition to a great deal of twists, cameos, and turns, there’s also a surprising good deal of well-earned emotional residence to the film as well.
Beyond the script, however, what really sells the movie, though, is the great chemistry that all the leads have together. Considered The Rat Pack of our time, by some, it’s evident on screen not only how good of friends they all are, but also how much fun they are having making this film. Thankfully, their fun is infectious.
It should be known that this is a horror comedy before it is a stoner comedy. This is more Shaun of the Dead than Pineapple Express. As first-time directors, Rogen and Goldberg surprisingly have a great understanding of not only horror and apocalypse movies, but also creating a blending tone of the different genres. They also are able to create a good sense of atmosphere and creating a sense of threat around these characters.
While there are a good deal of jokes in this film that work, they are the occasional scenes that drag along a little longer than they need to. Thankfully, they don’t grow as tedious as some recent Judd Apatow-produced projects like Bridesmaids or The Five-Year Engagement (two films that I also rather enjoyed, by the way). Additionally, while it feels a little weird to say this, this film could have used a little more cameos. Or, at least, done a little more with the deaths of the stars they had. Most of the deaths by these celebrities were a little more lackluster than I was expecting.
However, any movie that kills off Aziz Ansari in the first 30-minutes earns a great deal of respect in my book.
While not as hilarious as Knocked Up or Superbad, This is the End succeeds in ways most mainstream comedies these days don’t. Boosted with lots of wit and heart, This is the End is easily not only the best comedy I’ve seen this summer, but the best comedy I’ve seen so far this year.