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Film Review: This Is The End/The World's End

29th July 2013

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Alistair Gardiner watches two major new comedies that both involve the world ending and finds both heaven and hell...

Certificate: 18/15

106/109 mins

Director: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg/Edgar Wright

Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride/Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike

This Is The End and The World’s End are films that are very similar in ways that go beyond the titles. Both, for example concern themselves with piss-ups interrupted by Armageddon. Both also aThis Is The Endttempt to use these plots as a by-line to access a more grounded emotional story. Both are the latest in their own respective succession of comedic movies that can be linked by style and sensibility. Both were even conceived at similar times. What’s more interesting is their differences, which is essentially a list of reasons why one of the films is successful in its intentions and the other flails about like limp fish.

This Is The End begins with Jay Baruchel (Jay Baruchel) arriving into L.A. to spend the weekend with his old friend Seth Rogen (Seth Rogen). After a marijuana fuelled afternoon, Seth informs Jay (much to his discontent) that they’re going to a party at James Franco’s house. Jay doesn’t particularly like L.A. or its residents (he only came to the city hang out with his old pal) and when they arrive at the party it becomes apparent why; the place is packed with obnoxious celebrities (including Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Rihanna etc) indulging in hedonistic acts. But soon the awkwardness of the party is the least of Jay’s problems.

It’s a very strong start and the movie really gets into full swing when they arrive at the party. The actors’ perceived Hollywood personas occasionally verge on comic genius – Jonah Hill is a real joy as an unbearable diva and Michael Cera’s will probably be the funniest and most outrageous cameo in any film this year. Aside from the self-parody at play here, most of the laughs come from the ‘Team Apatow’ comedy staple of improvised dialogue where there are no actual gags, but rather a big gaggle of conversation where everyone’s chipping in. Here the funniest lines are thrown away off-screen, whilst the audience gets a simultaneous reaction shot of someone looking bewildered. This is where the film’s at its best: where you’re laughing at dialogue that wouldn’t be funny on the page, where it just feels like you’re hanging out with your friends.

The most surprising thing for me, was the subplot regarding the rift occurring in Jay and Seth’s friendship, which threatens (but never quite manages) to become a comment on the superficiality of the Hollywood system and its effects on people. I was desperately hoping that this would become the real agenda of the movie, because tensions like this are the exact reason why Superbad was (and is) the best of the Apatow comedies: at the crux of it all was an honest and heart-clenching story of a childhood friendship inevitably ending. All of this make the first 40 minutes of the film an absolute joy (I even found myself appreciating some seemingly well-crafted cinematography) and I felt like maybe this could be it! Their masterpiece!

Unfortunately half way through it becomes apparent that there weren’t enough ideas in the original short film (Jay and SethThis Is The End 2 Versus The Apocalypse) upon which This Is The End was based. The improvised dialogue becomes tiresome and less funny and, in general, the film loses its wit and mirth.

At this point, other aspects of the film that were excusable become incredibly irksome. For example the fact that, for a budget of £32 million, the CGI is abhorrent. Supposedly the main cast took significant pay cuts in order to help Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg save money for the budget, but I just can’t work out where that money has gone. The film is, for the most part, a Chamber Piece; the costs can’t have gone on the set, so why are the effects so dire?

And what started off as looking like a film about two friends who are drifting apart because one of them has becomes entangled in a Hollywood lifestyle becomes less interested in relationships and increasingly concerned with an action packed finale (a massive irony in itself). The film’s ending is horribly lazy and retrospectively unforgivable.

The World’s End, then, begins in a similar way with old friends reuniting only to find that things have changed.

The World's End20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl with his four childhood mates, Gary King (Simon Pegg) is a broken man. But he has a plan: to reunite the old gang, head back to their home town, and once again attempt to complete the crawl by reaching the twelfth and final pub, The World's End. Along the way they confront their pasts and presents (as well as many a pint o’ beer), but soon they begin to realize that reaching The World's End could lead to consequences a lot worse than a hangover.

The plot here of “all my friends have grown up so maybe I should to figure out how to move on” works on multiple levels – indeed one of the film’s poignancies is the fact that it feels like the Wright/Pegg/Frost team (who now all have careers independent of one another) could be announcing the end of their own journey together. And what a denouement!

The similarities between the two films are there, but it’s almost like the team went out with the same intentions are Seth and the gang, but stuck to their guns and did it right. The dialogue captures the comical nuances of everyday British chit-chat, much as Rogen and co’s does for American gabber. However, as always, Pegg and Wright’s script was clearly meticulously crafted with so many referential points and gags that multiple viewings should be mandatory.

Nuance is actually an important word in talking about this film – the attention to detail is impressive to say the least. Everything about the film, from its 90s soundtrack to the set design, is just so bloody English. And, collectively, the brilliant performances from the current crème de la crème of Blighty’s screen actors realize an authentic, amusing and affectionate portrait of contemporary Britain.  

On top of this, when the shit hits the proverbial the visual effects are fantastic. In comparison to those in This Is The End (and bearing in mind the film had the lesser budget of only £12 million) these effects stand as a tribute to the imagination and technical ingenuity of the filmmakers.

Finally (and vitally), whereas as Rogen and Goldberg lose interest in their characters, Wright and Pegg manage to unleash hell on the screen and yet retain a genuine emotional core to the film. It may not be as funny or unexpected as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but this very humanist idea – that what’s really important in this story isn’t the impending apocalypse, but the people – is never lost sight of and that gives this film a warmth that means you’ll leave smiling.

The World’s End is, thus, the poignant denouement to the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ and, sad though it is, the films have run their course and gone out on a high. This Is The End will probably not be the end of Team Apatow’s series of (mostly) bromances, which is a shame. Because, as enjoyable as their films are, they all too often side-line the one thing that would make them great: honesty.

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