The story begins when best friends Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen attend a party at James Franco’s house in the Hollywood Hills. The “How to Train Your Dragon” isn’t happy at the crowded get together. He’s uncomfortable with phoniness of it all and Jonah Hill’s “I loved you in ‘Million Dollar Baby’” pandering.
Jay and Seth get some air on a smoke and snack run to a nearby convenience store, but before they can pay for the Marlboroughs and Munchos, something strange—really odd—happens. Flames fill the sky. The earth opens, swallowing people, places and things. Blue lights from the heavens beam blessed people skyward, leaving the damned to stay put.
It’s the end of times, but back at Franco’s mansion it’s business as usual. Michael Cera is snorting cocaine, Jason Segal is mingling and Craig Robinson is leading a singsong of a song called “Take Off Your Panties.”
The shaky town partygoers are nonplussed as the earth rumbles—it’s earthquake territory after all—until a giant sinkhole in the front yard gobbles up many of the guests, (MILD SPOILER) including Cera, Aziz Ansari, Rhianna and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Inside the survivors—the broken social scene of frenemies Baruchel, Rogen Hill, Franco, Robinson and Danny McBride—ration what few supplies they have and try and figure out what the hell is going on.
“When disaster strikes,” says Franco, trying to maintain calm, “who do they rescue first? The actors!”
Thus begins a story of survival of the famous and a lesson on how to get on the right side of the Rapture.
Each member of the scruffy core ensemble—including two Oscar nominees!—play heightened versions of their screen personas. For Rogen’s fans there’s the easygoing stoner. Franco plays it pretentious and edgy while Hill actually refers to himself as “America’s Sweetheart.”
Franco is fixated on Rogen, Hill hates Baruchel and McBride is the wildest card in the deck.
As an experiment in insider tomfoolery bordering on narcissism, it’s a hilariously unhinged look into celebrity that takes no prisoners. They poke fun at their own work—particularly “Your Highness” and “The Green Hornet”—careers and personas. It’s a brazen mega meta idea that works well, more so if you’re already fans of the guys.
Emma Watson buffs will also be treated to a different, axe wielding side of Hermione and Channing Tatum’s cameo must be seen to be believed.
The biblical aspects of the story are played remarkably straight for a pedal-to-the-metal frat boy comedy. Anatomically correct Harryhausen-esque demons wreak havoc and a moral message about sacrifice and a “do unto others” sentiment is somewhat unexpected given the tone of the rest of the film.
Not unexpected from this bunch is a reliance on juvenile barf and bodily fluid gags. Kicking a dismembered head around like a soccer ball is one thing in a funny movie about earth and destruction, but screenwriters Rogen and Evan Goldberg play up the low brow aspects just a bit to much.
“This is the End” packs a great deal into its one hour and forty-five minute running time. Not all the jokes land—in fact quite a few don’t—but when it is clicking on all cylinders it is the funniest and most inventive comedy of the summer.