Twitter Plot Summary: There’s a party at James Franco’s new house when the end of the world happens. The surviving celebs bicker and argue. Except Jonah Hill.
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Key Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson.
Five Point Summary:
1. James Franco’s house looks like a fortress.
2. Look – celebrity cameos!
3. If Danny McBride is like this in real life… ugh.
4. Are they demons or… wait, it’s naked. Oh dear. Oh dearie dear.
5. I don’t want to spoil it, but 90s pop for the win!
What happens if the end of the world goes down while you’re at a party at James Franco’s house? I doubt many of us would find ourselves in this position, but that’s the setup for the latest writing partnership of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. This also marks the first time that the pair have stepped behind the camera and directed – thankfully they don’t make a complete hash of it, although they might want to have a word with the company that provided their CGI – most of it looks impressive but some shots looks awful.
After we’ve established that pretty much all of the Judd Apatow stable of actors are at the party (Michael Cera, Jason Segal, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd amongst others), 99% of those present are bumped off when a sinkhole opens up in Franco’s front garden. I’d have liked to have seen more celebs being killed as part of that sequence, and that’s not from any sadistic obsession on my part, I just think it would have made the whole sequence funnier. Other than the money shot of Michael Cera being impaled (which is also in the trailer), we get a few people falling down the sinkhole and that’s it. Given how funny the rest of the film is, it’s a surprise they didn’t include more celebrity deaths. Maybe something for the extended Blu-Ray edition, perhaps?
The group bicker and argue and play exaggerated/fictional versions of themselves. James Franco loves Seth Rogen; Jay Baruchel (the “everyman” of the script) can’t stand the LA lifestyle; Danny McBride is obnoxious and thoroughly unpleasant; and Jonah Hill is lovely. Michael Cera gets the biggest laughs in the opening act for being a coke-snorting, Rihanna-bothering sexual predator, sadly he’s only around for the first act. What follows is, essentially, what would happen when a group of less than manly men are forced together at the end of everything. So we get a plethora of penis jokes and male humour – never a bad thing in my book, but then I would say that. Given the amount of comedy talent (some might argue otherwise) that exists between the six main cast, it’s no surprise that the dialogue is snappy and consistently funny. Craig Robinson does his high pitched screaming thing, but it’s not used excessively. Jokes fly left right and centre and there’s barely a dull moment. When Emma Watson returns to the house and the group, taking a paternal approach, show her to a room upstairs for her to get some rest, the subsequent conversation that takes place in the corridor is comedy genius.
You could easily make the argument that it’s quite a chauvinistic film given how women are treated throughout – Rihanna is the target of Michael Cera’s desires; Emma Watson misconstrues what’s being discussed in the corridor outside her room; and to an extent you’d be right. My counterargument is that films don’t always need to be balanced as far as attitudes towards men and women are concerned. Women get short shrift here, a film ostensibly about men being men during the apocalypse, and I know for a fact men get short shrift in any film where the female characters are the main focus. I don’t see why everything has to be balanced, films (and life in general) would be a lot less interesting if they were. Let’s just say it’s appropriate for its audience, and I don’t just mean men. The screening I went to was almost a 50-50 gender split, and not all of those women were there with husbands/boyfriends. Just saying.
From both a script and a directorial perspective it has a distinctly haphazard approach, like someone has taken a disparate batch of ideas and sticky-taped them together to make a feature length movie. For all I know, that’s what they did, but it works. I’ve read elsewhere that it gives the film an “anything could happen” vibe, which I agree with. Broadly we get the usual three act structure, but you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. Biblical apocalypse, hellspawn, exorcism, tripping on drugs, even making a sweded trailer for Pineapple Express 2 – it’s all on the table.
The film loses its way a little once they leave James Franco’s house. Luckily this is limited to the final act where Goldberg and Rogen obviously decided that the previously modest self-contained story needed to go up to 11. After a brief encounter with cannibals (and a frankly hilarious cameo appearance), we’re promptly shuffled along towards the end. Once again demonstrating the haphazard approach, it’s like we’ve jumped between two different films, or we’ve skipped five pages of script.
The finale is decent enough for what it’s worth, fans of 90s pop music will love it. It’s hard to see how else it could have ended in hindsight. It would’ve been nice to plug a couple of story strands that are left hanging (the cannibal thread in particular), but I laughed consistently from start to finish and, for a comedy film, that’s always a bonus.
Favourite scene: The Exorcism of Jonah Hill. To say any more would spoil it more than I have already.
Quote: “I don’t wanna die at James Franco’s house!”
Silly Moment: The decapitation. Again, to say more would spoil it.