Review: 'This Is the End', starring Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel

Movies about the end of the world are a dime a dozen, especially during the summer months. But an apocalyptic comedy that serves as a riotous stoner flick and a scathing satire of Hollywood celebrity self-involvement? Those are extremely rare, and it's even harder to find a film half as laugh out loud funny and inspired as This Is the End.

Audacious would be another word that could be used to describe it, because this is one massive undertaking, and one that almost seemed destined for failure.  Many films packing an arsenal of comic superstars have bombed for one reason or another. Heck, Movie 43 had about three dozen stars and it's an insult to comedy everywhere. This Is the End boasts so much talent that it's tough to believe it's actually happening, even as you're watching practically everybody who ever passed through a Judd Apatow film hanging out playing versions of themselves. Based on the popular trailer for a never-released short by Rogen and Jay Baruchel, it's been expanded to include their Hollywood buddies James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, and many more. Whether it's actually true or not, we have this notion that these people are together all of the time, so it feels natural seeing them together. When Michael Cera turns up, you kind of expect it, even if he is playing a sexually deviant creep.

Therein lays the genius that Rogen and his posse are willing to completely play in to our perceptions of them, whether they are real or fabricated. So you've got the totally pretentious and eccentric Franco, who idealizes everything including his crap movies like Flyboys and Your Highness. Rogen is the lovable everyman, Jay Baruchel has an inferiority complex because he's not that famous, and Danny McBride is a total douchebag. An evil douchebag, at that. What passes for a story involves Rogen and Baruchel as best buds, who have grown apart as their careers have gone in different directions. After clowning around and duh, getting high, Rogen drags Baruchel kicking and screaming to a celebrity-packed party at Franco's. The vast majority of the cameos happen here, with some getting more play than others. Cera is probably the biggest stand out, along with Rihanna who doesn't take too kindly to his nerdy aggressiveness, but it's also fun to see lesser known figures like Martin Starr (Rogen's other Freaks and Geeks pal) and Numbers star David Krumholtz. After Baruchel, who has some long-standing beef with Jonah Hill, convinces Rogen to go out and grab some post-weed munchies, all Hell breaks loose when blue beams of light began sucking people into the sky. A massive earthquake rips the ground in half, but this isn't just another California quake. The world is literally coming to an end, and most of the celebs tumble to their doom, although a few (lookin' at you, Craig Robinson!) selfishly sacrifice others to save themselves.

That leaves just Rogen, Baruchel, Hill, Robinson, Franco, and McBride holed up in the house, and it isn't long before the terrors of the outside are nothing compared to the danger of so many colliding egos inside. And so you've got McBride looking out for himself and eating all of the food, Baruchel's anxieties clashing with the insincere Hill, and Franco's angst over a Milky Way, his "special food". The guys bide their time by making a hilariously cheap sequel to Pineapple Express and getting high during a fantastic eye-searing montage. No indignity is spared as Goldberg and Rogen cross the boundaries of good taste in practically every way imaginable. A severed head gets punted around like a kickball; there's always a new penis joke right around the corner, and on at least one occasion someone is sexually violated by a demon with a massive member.

While there are no shortage of raunchy jokes, familiarity with the real-life versions of these characters will go a long way in how much enjoyment one takes from it. If you've heard the quiet whispers regarding Franco's sexuality, then you know how stinging it is when McBride says: “James Franco didn’t suck a dick last night? Now I know you’re all tripping,” There are tons of personalized touches of self-parody like that which make this such a brave venture, and the fact that it's endlessly quotable and consistently a laugh riot only makes it more of an instant classic.  At roughly two hours it's definitely overlong, and there's the sense that the story is spinning in mud for a while. It's still funny during those times, but the story isn't really going anywhere. There's also a disturbing overuse of rape as humor, which could be a by-product of the need to fill as much time as possible. A billboard in one scene for a new movie called Night Rapist seems kind of pointless, and there's an extremely disturbing rape scenario conjured around the presence of Emma Watson, who shows up wielding an ax.

Those minor pitfalls aside, Rogen and Goldberg show that they understand how a comedy involving them and their friends should work. Put them all in a room and let them just bounce one wacky idea after another, and just have a good time doing it. They know we want to spend time with these people, even at the worst moment in human history we would still come to them looking for a cheap laugh. It's amazing that Rogen and Goldberg couldn't figure this out last year when they co-wrote The Watch, a disastrous stinker featuring a supposedly bulletproof comedy cast.  That film wasted pretty much everything and everybody, while This Is the End is a raunchy, ridiculous, and Rapture-ous good time.