Wow. Who knew the End of Days would be filled with giant sinkholes, oversexed demons, the proliferation of the “F” word and a cameo appearance by the Backstreet Boys bathed in a thick haze of burnt high-grade weed? And who knew how the final judgment would affect a group of young comic actors, including James Franco (“127 Hours“), Jonah Hill (“21 Jump Street“), Seth Rogen (“The Guilt Trip“), Jay Baruchel (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice“), Craig Robinson (“The Office” TV series) and Danny McBride (“Your Highness“)?
Based on a concept created by co-director Rogen (along with Evan Goldberg, both also co-wrote) and Baruchel from 2010, This Is the End features the cast playing themselves at a housewarming party for Franco. At it a dozen or so more recognizable celebrities also appear, such as Emma Watson (most recently, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), Michael Cera (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World“), Mindy Kaling (also from “The Office” TV series), Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation“), Paul Rudd (“Wanderlust“), Rihanna, Jason Segel (“The Five-Year Engagement“) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Movie 43“), among others.
Unfortunately, the festivities don’t last very long though and most of the partygoers are dispatched quickly as earthquakes, explosions, massive sinkholes and firestorms strike the Hollywood hills wiping out most of the population not suddenly taken to Heaven in radiant blue steaks of light. Left to their own devices, the five (McBride appears later on) barricade themselves inside and try to come to grips with what’s going on. Baruchel, in his infinite wisdom, comes to an early conclusion that this is the Apocalypse and if they will turn to God, they will be saved and instantly ascend into Paradise. The others don’t quite agree, so there are various scenes of panic, fear, fighting, backstabbing and demonic possession during the bulk of this end-of-world sleepover (some funnier than others).
Watson, after disappearing during the initial craziness, returns in a very funny sequence (although fans of her Hermione character might have some trouble accepting her dropping the “F” bomb several times), while Michael Cera plays a coked-up, obnoxious jerk (far removed from his real-life persona). Also, the jokes come fast and furious, many laced with profanity (obviously), often self-depreciating and referencing and insulting the films made by the cast (“Pineapple Express,” “Superbad,” “Moneyball,” etc.). These illicit some genuine guffaws, but the longer This Is the End plays (and it plays two hours — far too long for a comedy), the more violent, weird and less humorous it becomes, until it finally concludes in a heaven-like atmosphere straight out of “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.”
Of course, when a film is dealing with the end of the world, there is not a lot of wiggle room and even in this current age of motion picture excess, the fire-scorched landscapes, smoke-filled atmosphere and 200-foot “Cloverfield” monstrosities seem way over the top. A message of biblical salvation, however, is certainly an interesting addition particularly in light of current feelings toward Christianity in Hollywood and especially in a movie like this.
It’s not always snicker out loud (like last year’s “Ted“) nor is it a Billy Wilder masterpiece of wry and wit, but overall — after months of complaining about the definite dearth of comedies — this author has to admit that while This Is the End is not perfect, it is certainly funny, for the most part. And even though the laughs become fewer and fewer as the movie goes along, there are more than enough to give this comedy a slightly hearty recommendation.