Hey, remember when James Franco threw that awesome party and it got ruined by the rapture?
That’s more or less the premise of This Is the End, a rambling shambles from writer-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg that’s probably the most self-indulgent wank in movie history, yet, on occasion, it’s hilarious. Nearly everybody who has ever told a dick joke in a Judd Apatow comedy shows up here, playing themselves—or more accurately, a crasser, much dumber variation on their celebrity persona.
Seth Rogen’s the affable pothead, entertaining pal Jay Baruchel, who just flew in from Canada and can’t quite hide his disdain for childhood buddy Seth’s new L.A. friends. James Franco’s hosting the hottest party in Hollywood, and the spring breaker has a grand old time sending up his reputation as a pompous, pseudo-intellectual dolt. Jonah Hill oozes passive-aggressive hostility, while Craig Robinson amusingly interprets every social interaction as a personal affront.
Franco’s bash is a who’s-who of comedy star cameos, with a jaw-dropping appearance by Michael Cera as a depraved coke fiend who decadently sips Capri Sun while getting a rim job in the bathroom. (Between this and the upcoming Crystal Fairy, Cera is on to a career resurgence playing assholes on drugs.) But then that damned apocalypse has to come along and ruin everybody’s good time.
As dictated by scripture, the rapture sends all the good people up to heaven in a beam of blue light, so of course our shallow showbiz jerks are left behind on a ravaged planet, waiting around for the Four Horsemen. This Is the End gets some serious comic mileage out of how useless these pampered actors are in a crisis, and the movie hits a high note in more ways than one when they just decide to smoke all the weed they have left and shoot a sequel to Pineapple Express on the flipcam Franco saved from 127 Hours.
Looters, natural disasters and prowling demons are no match for the destructive force of Danny McBride at full bluster, and as the survivors turn on each other, the movie grows wearying. Heavy on improvisation and at least half an hour too long, every time the picture begins to grind, there’s a left-field comic flourish that wins you back—if just barely.
What a strange anti-vanity project—a bunch of friends got together and made a movie about how they all deserve to go to hell.
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