While attending a party at James Franco’s house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the apocalypse.
Not many rising young stars would gleefully portray themselves as shallow, petty, and petulant for the sake of comedy, but that’s what James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and others do in This Is the End. Rogen persuades his visiting friend Jay Baruchel (How to Train Your Dragon) to go to a party at Franco’s fabulous new house. The party, a festival of narcissism and self-indulgence, allows a host of celebrities to poke fun at themselves (including Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, and more). But just when Baruchel wants to flee, Armageddon begins, trapping Baruchel, Rogen, Franco, Hill, Craig Robinson (The Office), and Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down) in Franco’s house with little food and water while L.A. burns around them–and then the pettiness really begins. This Is the End is, as one might expect and perhaps even hope, crass and trashy. Jokes about masturbation, drugs, and cannibalism abound, but often the funniest material comes from the subtleties of social awkwardness and status anxiety. The last third of the movie explodes into special effects spectacle, ultimately capped with a musical number. It’s like a multi-million-dollar home movie, with both the virtues (exuberance and wild creative flights) and weaknesses (a bit slapdash and in-jokey) of such things. But despite all the mean-spiritedness on display, there’s an overall spirit of good cheer that carries the movie along. –Bret Fetzer