This is the End (2013) is one of those movies I was half-expecting to hate, but I also hoped it would change my mind. It did, for about twenty minutes, but by the end it had exhausted my good will completely.
It’s an insider movie starring a number of celebrities as themselves, but the core viewpoint characters are Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen. Baruchel is in town for a visit from Canada, and stays with his old buddy Rogen, who drags him reluctantly to a Hollywood party at James Franco’s house. Then, well, the Apocalypse breaks out, turning the Hollywood Hills, and presumably the rest of the world, into a fiery wasteland. The survivors at the party struggle to figure out their fate: are they doomed to Hell, or do they still have a chance to ascend?
It opens promisingly enough. Baruchel and Rogen have a comfortable rapport, and their troubled friendship gives the story an effective buddy-movie feel. The early scenes of the party are amusing in a meta way, especially Franco sending up his persona as a creative Renaissance man, and the depiction of Michael Cera as an out-of-control sociopath. The early stages of the Apocalypse are funny and compellingly rendered.
But ultimately the film devolves into a bickery, high-concept bottle show full of unlikable people. It’s obviously a film by actors, for actors, and about actors. (Not actresses, mind you, although Emma Watson turns up in a thankless role for easily the worst of the movie’s many unfortunate lowbrow sequences.) It’s clear the cast had fun making it, and I suspect that’s kind of the point of the project. But their hysterical interactions make them harder and harder to watch, and none of them are nearly as funny as they think they are — nor is the movie. It had me for about half an hour, but unfortunately I kept watching.