James Franco has been working hard to hide his pretty-boy looks behind provocative films and edgy roles that allow him to vanish into them: When we saw Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” at a recent screening in the US, we could hardly recognize Franco as a drug dealer with cornrows and silver-capped teeth. He ups the casting ante in “Lovelace,” about porn superstar Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), where he portrays—Hugh Hefner!
There’s nowhere for Franco to “hide,” however, in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s apocalyptic comedy, “This Is The End” (showing next week), because he plays himself in it—along with Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Channing Tatum!
If you think the star-studded production is a shameless exercise in self-indulgence, you’re right. But, there’s also a lot of fun to be had as the film winkingly pokes fun at stardom and its practitioners’ loony proclivities—and, with Rogen and Goldberg taking on the daunting task with ballsy conviction, the movie manages to draw insights that are as hilarious as they are cautionary.
“This Is The End’s” premise is a hoot—how would Tinseltown’s self-entitled young guns react if they’re faced with the Apocalypse? The story begins when Baruchel visits his LA-based bosom buddy, Rogen, who invites him to James Franco’s housewarming party.
The friendly banter soon degenerates into the kind of gathering you’d expect from narcissistic young actors who think that their exhilarating brush with fame has no end. It’s hard to discuss the film’s merits and flaws without disclosing some details about the story—so, be forewarned: If you don’t like a few spoilers, read no further:
When Judgment Day comes unexpectedly, it’s every man for himself. Before long, you’ll see Rihanna getting sucked into a raging inferno, or sex-starved Michael Cera getting skewered by a lamp post—get the picture? When the initial smoke clears, only Franco, Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson and McBride are left standing.
—Well, Emma Watson also survives—but, it doesn’t take long for the ax-wielding actress to “abandon” her loutish, bickering colleagues when she overhears them talking about rape—and she certainly didn’t want to risk that!
The coke-sniffing Hill smugly assures his pals that they will no doubt be rescued first, because they’re stars. As they argue about Franco’s gender-bending tendencies, Rogen’s box-office flop (“The Green Hornet”), and Hill’s humongous ego, the group’s collective negativity attracts a terrifying demon that—rapes and possesses one of them! The exorcism rites that follow are as memorably hilarious as Franco’s poker-faced antics in “Spring Breakers.”
“This Is The End’s” idiosyncratic mix of horror and boisterous humor is occasionally weighed down by protracted scenes that needlessly milk its narrative excesses, but Rogen and Goldberg cheekily deliver a unique brand of cinematic self-deprecation you won’t find anywhere else!