This is the End | B-
As much as Hollywood loves to extol its brand of glitzy, sun-soaked hedonism, there is an equally irresistible urge to burn it all down.
The apocalypse has been all the rage lately, with a diverse slate like 2012, Melancholia, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Oblivion and countless zombie flicks — all reveling in mass destruction. None of them, however, have made the end of days look like such a blast.
This is the End is a wildly inventive, rudely funny but erratic romp that pulls off the neat trick of being cynically crass, but also as close as mainstream gross-out comedy gets to profound.
Adam Sandler, who makes movies that are superficial excuses to hang out with his famous friends, has a shadow in Seth Rogen, who has apparently earned this status as well.
Here, Rogen, who also co-wrote and directed with partner Evan Goldberg, plays himself, which is essentially what he does in every movie.
In this universe, the ever-jovial stoner Seth is playing host to visiting Canadian pal Jay Baruchel, his co-star from Undeclared, who has never really warmed to the L.A lifestyle. Earnest and shy, Jay gets pushed out of his XBOX and Twizzler’s comfort zone, and dragged to a party with all the show biz types that make him squirm (as most of the stars — and many of the lesser-lights of alt comedy filmdom have gathered gather for an epic rager at James Franco’s custom designed mansion in the Hollywood hills).
A parade of familiar faces, many from the Judd Apatow pantheon, stroll through for amusing cameos, with a guest list that includes: Mindy Kaling, Jason Siegel, Kevin Hart, Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, Rhianna and more.
Everyone is playing mildly enhanced version of themselves, except wispy Michael Cera, who plays an abrasive, drug-gobbling, womanizing party monster to hilarious effect.
Just as were settling in to the party, a full-blown rapture breaks out, with partygoers being swallowed up by massive sinkholes, infernos and beams of blue light — that suck people into the sky.
When the chaos settles slightly, Rogen, Baurchel, Franco, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill are the survivors, holed up in Franco’s house, and left to squabble over their egos, bathroom habits and dwindling rations — including a prized Milky Way bar.
These are not the guys you’d expect to stay calm in a disaster, since actors are, as Robinson colorfully puts it, “soft as baby shit”.
What begins as a witty, winking meta send-up of show biz vanity, morphs into a full-blown apocalyptic special effects epic that plays a bit like a hyperactive, undersexed 16-year-old with the munchies. The blend of comedy bromance and outright fantasy is awkward, but Rogen knows his way around both genres. The movie gets derailed a bit by the appearance of the hugely obnoxious Danny McBride, who is currently gaining ground on Jen Jeong as the most unwelcome comedy party crasher.
McBride’s wearisome shtick involves a toxic blend of overconfidence, self-absorption and buffoonery, and his dick behavior stirs what passes for a plot in the movie’s jokey, loosely scripted middle third.
Anarchy brings out everyone’s deepest insecurities and there are candid, often uproarious discussions about friendship, faith, loyalty and selling out — when not interrupted by CGI demon attacks, gore, playful homophobia and masturbation jokes.
Persistent immaturity is the big gag though, notably, there are no girlfriends, no wives, no kids or family to worry over as these dudes stare down mortality — nothing really to get in the way of the rampant bromance. If This Is the End feels like a project made with a total lack of adult supervision, it also goes to dark and curious corners that studio comedies rarely dare to explore. Whether that’s heavenly or hellish is a matter of taste. mt
This is the End opens on June 12, and is rated R; it has a running time of 107 minutes.