If the Rapture is coming, the "Superbad" writing duo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg ask in "This Is The End," how will it affect our precious Hollywood celebrities?
The answer turns out to be scathingly funny, raucously profane, and even a little sweet.
Rogen and Goldberg start with Rogen, playing a character named Seth Rogen, picking up his fellow Canadian Jay Baruchel (played, interestingly enough, by Jay Baruchel) at the Los Angeles airport. Baruchel just wants to hang out and smoke pot with his old friend, but Rogen insists they attend a housewarming party being thrown by James Franco.
It's a big scene at Franco's concrete-fortified pad, with a guest list that includes such A-listers as Rihanna, Emma Watson and Michael Cera (who portrays himself here as a coked-out misogynist jerk). Baruchel wants to escape, and on a cigarette run with Rogen, all manner of strange things start happening.
First there's an earthquake. Then Jay sees blue lights descend to take people up to the sky. Back at Franco's place, the Hollywood hills are ablaze and a sinkhole suddenly forms, taking many of the well-known party guests to the center of the earth.
Five survivors hole up in Franco's house: Jay, Seth, Franco, Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill. Soon they are joined by a sixth survivor, the boorish Danny McBride, whose presence adds tension to the house. McBride's abrasive character, and everyone's reaction to it, is oddly reassuring – because it's nice to think that Hollywood hates McBride as much as I do.
Panic and fear soon give way to boredom, which the six solve in some funny ways. My favorite is the sequel to "Pineapple Express" that the guys shoot using Franco's video camera, a souvenir from his "127 Hours" shoot. But as California burns, and strange beasts roam outside, Jay starts to wonder if this is really the Apocalypse, as foretold in the Book of Revelations.
Rogen and Goldberg (who make their directing debut) push the raunch level to maximum, which works because the cast is game enough to try anything and funny enough to make it work. They, and the cast, have a great deal of fun playing up or playing against their established screen personas – whether it's Hill as a teddy bear of positive affirmations or Franco as a self-absorbed esthete.
There's also a subtle streak of kindness, as Rogen and Goldberg play with the idea that the strain on Baruchel's and Rogen's friendship may be as important as the end of the world.
The main reason to see "This Is The End" is that it's brutally, unapologetically funny. If you can't laugh through the Apocalypse, the world may as well come to an end.
'This Is The End'
Hollywood A-listers face the Apocalypse in this sharply funny and raunchy comedy.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Wednesday, June 12.
Rating • Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
Running time • 107 minutes