The lads of Hollywood’s “Pot Pack” get together for a riotous riff on The Rapture in “This is the End,” an often hilarious/generally irreverent comedy about the Biblical apocalypse as seen through the windows of a movie star’s mansion.
HHHH (out of five stars)
Director: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Michael Cera
Rated: R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Seth Rogen & Co. cooked up this all-star romp, a much funnier, less preachy and just as credulous take on New Testament accounts of The End than the equally blasphemous “Rapture Palooza.”
Inventing versions of their real selves to play, “End” begins with old Rogen pal Jay Baruchel visiting him in Los Angeles, getting baked and complaining about Rogen’s running mates — James Franco, Jonah Hill and their ilk. Baruchel (“She’s Out of My League) is then dragged to a rowdy party at Franco’s Architecture Digest showplace of a home, where Franco can’t remember his name. Hill fawns all over him, unconvincingly trying to persuade Baruchel that they shouldn’t be enemies. And Craig Robinson (“Peeples”) entertains one and all by leading the mob in a few choruses of “Take Yo’ Panties Off.”
The first thing that works here is this madcap party, where Jason Segel rips his undemanding, formulaic TV comedy (“How I Met Your Mother”) to Kevin Hart. Emma Watson endures the ogling of the lads and Rhianna ups her cool quotient by slapping Michael Cera, who consumes mass quantities of coke and sex and generally punctures his effeminate nice-boy image. The party is so funny it could be its own movie.
And then The End begins. Baruchel is the surrogate for the audience, the one who sees the beams of light pulling the righteous up into heaven. Since nobody at the party was “Raptured,” nobody believes him. When the earth quakes, the fires begin and doom rains down — “Tsunami? Zombie invasion?” — most partygoers are quickly consumed. The five leads, in various states of outrageous denial, are left to fend for themselves.
Baruchel reads the Bible to them and points out the signs and the pictures of Satan.
“I know that dude. He’s from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’!”
And then Danny McBride shows up. Everybody in this movie sells the concept and works up a fine lather over their peril and their petty personality conflicts. But as he did in “Pineapple Express,” McBride takes things to a new level. His redneck rage, contempt for the “sell-outs” and career stumbles and the very profession they all share blasts from his lips - every line a killer, no line quotable in polite company. When he’s in it, “End” is the living end of rapture spoofs. When he leaves, the energy plunges.
Rogen, who co-wrote and directed this, lets the fun go on too long. But the effects are grand and often R-rated, and for a movie as over the R-rating line as this one often is, there’s a surprisingly sweet message about the road to redemption.
So if you see only one End Times movie this summer, make it the Pot Pack’s installment. “This is the End” is the going-away party of apocalypse movies.