It was only a matter of time. Evan Goldberg earned his rep behind the scenes, with production and screenwriting credits on many of the blockbuster buddy comedies of the last decade: Knocked Up, Superbad, Pineapple Express, Goon. Now, along with his childhood friend from Vancouver, Seth Rogen, he’s stepping into the director’s chair/bromantic loveseat with a film poised to turn the genre on its head. This Is the End casts alums of Goldberg’s previous screenplays-Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera-as fictional versions of themselves scrambling around Los Angeles while the apocalypse touches down. After contracting cabin fever in Franco’s house, the gang heads outside to gather supplies and escape an end-of-days demise.
The movie feels, rather appropriately, like the cumulative end point to the cross-pollination of the past decade, which saw Danny McBride appearing alongside Rogen in Pineapple Express, then Rogen popping up in Eastbound & Down; and Michael Cera in Superbad, playing a character based on Goldberg. For This Is the End, Goldberg and Rogen have gone all in-theirs is The Avengers of bathroom humour.
Comic counterpoint is an essential component of the buddy film. Abbott and Costello relied on their disparate builds, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis on straight-man/funny-man shtick. In the ’80s, black and white actors (Pryor and Wilder, Murphy and Aykroyd) were paired off to manufacture biracial culture clashes. This Is the End is a postmodern extension of these dynamics, one that plays on its cast’s established personas. There’s the boob (Rogen), the cool guy (Franco), the nerd (Baruchel), the loudmouth (McBride) and the other nerd (Cera). Why have Craig Robinson play a Craig Robinson character when he could play Craig Robinson? As a conceit, it falls somewhere between clever and totally insufferable.
The set-up also allows Goldberg and Rogen to giddily indulge the half-improvised riffing they’ve made their stock-in-trade, offering viewers a perfected fly-on-the-wall look at what it’s “really” like to hang out with them. The appeal of This Is the End, Superbad and their ilk is tied to the rapport of their casts: it’s fun to watch these movies because it’s easy to buy that the stars are pals in real life-fart jokes and all.
This Is the End opens June 12.
(Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment)