This Is the End feels like the longest, funniest DVD extra of all-time. The apocalyptic comedy stars Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and a host of other celebrities playing parody versions of themselves as end times descend on Hollywood and the rest of the world.
Rogen and Evan Goldberg co-wrote the film, as they did Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet and The Watch, and it certainly represents a return to form for the pair. They also got the chance to direct for the first time; maybe having that sort of editorial control is a good thing given the two collaborations immediately previous to this one.
The joke here is that everyone in Hollywood is so selfish and/or depraved that there's no imaginable way that they could be raptured up to heaven when the apocalypse begins. But the real laughs come from the subtle sensation that you have a seat at the table with Rogen and company as they bullshit (and bullshit and bullshit) for hours on end, getting progressively sillier and irreverent the more they drink and smoke.
That is Rogen at his best. His good films feature extended scenes where he and his real-life friends make lewd jokes that don't really advance the plot but do give you a fly-on-the-wall feeling. His not-so-good films conspicuously lack this element.
In the case of This Is the End, that's pretty much all there is to it.
As the world implodes around them, the sextet of Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Robinson, Hill and McBride marshal their energy and resources toward getting high and drunk and doing the absolute bare minimum to stay alive as fire and brimstone rains down around them.
The waning friendship of Rogen and Baruchel, Franco's pseudo-hippie caricature of himself and creepy obsession with Rogen, Hill's disingenuous nice-guy behavior and McBride's incorrigible selfishness (not unlike that of his most famous role, Kenny Powers) provide the conflict. But the conflict is really just a vehicle for all parties involved to mock themselves and make a string of obscure pop culture references.
I laughed. Quite a bit.
My only reservation about all those chuckles is that I couldn't shake the feeling that in a few years -- maybe five, maybe 10 -- this is a film that will make almost no sense to many people. You have to be of a certain age to fully appreciate jokes (some of them elaborate) about The Green Hornet and The Backstreet Boys and so on.
So go see This Is the End, and see it soon. It won't disappoint, so long as you take it in before its Best Consumed By date.