Mainstream American comedy has been in a bit of a lull in the last few years, with films like the Hangover series achieving box office success with lowest common denominator laughs generated through mean-spirited, uncomfortable characters and repetitive situations. That’s what makes This Is The End such a welcome change; a comedy that takes the high concept approach while embracing its relatively low budget and, heaven forbid, has filmmakers and performers who actually seem like they’re having fun.
Sure, enjoyment of comedy more than maybe any other genre is a personal thing, but I don’t usually find a lot of humour in tired character tropes suffering or inflicting punishment on each other. The key to the success of This Is The End lies in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s decision to feature actors as exaggerated versions of themselves, playing with audience perceptions of the stars who are clearly having a ball exposing their own feelings about their image.
The list of cameo performances is almost too long to mention, but primarily the story poses the question of what would happen if Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride were trapped together in a house during the apocalypse. It’s a smart move to keep Baruchel mostly at the centre of the film, being probably the least familiar to audiences and therefore bringing the least baggage to the character. Rogen too keeps himself more or less grounded, with only momentary displays of narcissism and self involvement, but the remaining support cast boldly push themselves to hilarious limits. Most fun are Hill’s overly nice-guy veneer barely concealing a dark insincerity and Franco’s excessive bohemian silliness, with Michael Cera’s brief appearance as a cocaine-addled sexual deviant funnier than anything I’ve seen this year.
This Is The End embraces the spirit of the best 80s comedy that Rogen and Goldberg obviously grew up with, owing much of its supernatural elements to Ghostbusters while also prioritising the characters over the situation. With not a lot riding on the film’s box office performance, the people involved are free to follow threads they want to, and it’s evident that a whole lot of improvising went on during filming. As is often the case with comedy like this not every joke hits, but everyone involved is unafraid to pursue things that safer comedies usually cop out on, and while it’s not much more than harmless, silly fun, sometimes that’s all that you need.