MOVIE REVIEW: ‘This Is the End’

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There’s a lot of shocking material in “This Is The End,” a sacrilegious, stoner satire of a group of well known actors facing down the Rapture and its aftermath — but perhaps most shocking, for a Hollywood comedy, is the overt admission of the existence and agency of God. 

Seth Rogen and his comic cronies from Judd Apatow’s movies here play slightly tweaked versions of their own public personalities, drawn into a battle for survival and salvation amid the fiery ruins of this mortal coil. Despite the depravity, the movie eventually turns on whether these pampered celebrities can act selflessly on behalf of each other. 

Don’t get the wrong idea. “This is the End” doesn’t take its source material too seriously. It sets the bar for salvation rather lower than most faiths would have it — and indeed most movies as well. It is to the apocalypse what “Caddyshack” is to golf — an occasion for obnoxious, blunt, intermittently hilarious, self-referential comedy. 

The fun starts when Seth Rogen picks up his pal Jay Baruchel at the airport. From the get-go, when a photographer greets Seth by his real name, the audience is clued in to the casting stunt. Jay affects a dislike of Los Angeles and show business types, and would rather sit around Seth’s pad and smoke marijuana, pig out on junk food and play video games. But Seth drags Jay to a party at James Franco’s house, where celebrity guests abound. Don’t get too attached, however, because most of them are soon to reap the whirlwind.

Michael Cera, the modest, awkward geek of “Arrested Development,” has fun playing (presumably) against type as a cocaine-addled sex maniac and low-grade sociopath. Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from the “Harry Potter” series) is sweet as a party guest trying to decode the deviant strain in Jay that makes him dislike L.A.

While Jay and Seth are out buying munchies, conflagration strikes in what appears to be a massive earthquake, followed by raging fires and social unrest. Seth, Jay, and James survive, along with Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson (Daryl from “The Office). They’re joined by the obstreperous Danny McBride (the lead on the HBO baseball comedy “Eastbound And Down”), who crashed the party.

Amid all the parody, the movie never loses sight of the idea that these Hollywood actors lack the most basic skills required to take care of themselves in a chaotic, unpredictable environment. It’s a lot of fun to watch them try, and to watch them make fun of themselves in the process. James Franco, especially, seems to delight in skewering his public image as a pretentious polymath. In the film, for example, he designed his own house — badly. In one hilarious scene, James and Seth spitball idiotic yet not unlikely plot points for a sequel to “Pineapple Express.” Jonah Hill plays himself as earnest but secretly covetous of Seth’s friendship — and full of himself. When he prays, he tells God, “It’s Jonah Hill … from ‘Moneyball.’”

Because of the constant comic patter, the intrusion of horror sequences can be occasionally jarring, even though by horror movie standards the monsters and the gore are not expertly rendered. Fans of Mr. Rogen and his posse will enjoy the movie, but it’s general appeal might be limited by its over-the-top crudeness and inside jokes.

★★ 1/2

TITLE: “This Is The End”

CREDITS: Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg

RATING: R for drug use, sexual situations, gore and profanity

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes. 

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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