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A comedy for the end of days

Maya Phillips | 6/27/2013, 2:26 p.m. | Updated on 6/27/2013, 2:26 p.m.
The end

If the world’s going to hell, head for the hills … the Hollywood Hills, that is. Drive past Channing Tatum’s house and camp out at James Franco’s crib, where the most absurd end-of-the-world party is happening.

In “This is the End,” a group of Hollywood stars in the midst of a party end up having to face the apocalypse. Seth Rogen stars as, well, Seth Rogen, and all the stars play themselves in this film.

Jay Baruchel flies out to L.A. to meet his old friend Rogen, and Rogen convinces him to go to Franco’s celebrity fete. Baruchel reluctantly goes to the party, where they mingle with a laundry list of other celebs, including Rihanna, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Michael Cera, Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, among many others. As the celebs party on, outside, earthquakes occur, sinkholes appear and people get beamed up into the heavens “Star Trek”-style. The celebrities get tragically knocked off one by one while the survivors—Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride—barricade themselves in Franco’s house as the world gradually becomes engulfed in flames. A game of decapitated head soccer, a demon rape, an exorcism and a cannibalistic encounter later, and the guys have to come to terms with themselves in the face of the apocalypse.

For the past few years, the apocalypse has been all the rage, with the release of countless films and TV shows depicting some sort of alien invasion, religious reckoning, environmental catastrophe or zombie apocalypse causing our imminent demise. “This is the End” manages to make fun of both this recent trend in entertainment and the Hollywood stars themselves.

The fact that all of the stars in the movie portray themselves is what really makes the comedy work. Franco, universally known as a weird, pretentious, egotistical, art-obsessed actor, portrays himself as a weird, pretentious, egotistical, art-obsessed actor. But in the pantheon of comedically self-aware celebrities who appear in the film, Cera takes the cake as the funniest, portraying himself as a ridiculous, misogynistic, coked-out actor who gets down in bathrooms.

As promising as the movie’s start is, once the film digs into the nitty-gritty of the fire-and-brimstone plot, the comedy is almost exclusively raunchy body humor and jokes about drug use. The effects are gratuitous, campy and utterly ridiculous. The movie certainly does have its moments of humor, but the comedy is in no part surprising. Take “Pineapple Express,” “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” and “Superbad,” sprinkle in some demons and blood, and you’ve got “This is the End”—the type of stoner comedy that relies heavily on the same brand of over-the-top bathroom jokes and drug references.

Admittedly, this film does have its comedic moments (the parody of “The Exorcist” and the actors’ jabs at each others’ careers, among others), but the lack of variety in the humor and the repetition of some of the more gratuitous themes really wear the comedy thin by the end.

It may not be the best way to spend your last days on earth, but “This is the End” proves that the even the apocalypse has its funny moments.

“This is the End” is now playing in theaters.