Yes, it's raunchy and outrageous, but the gags add up to a viable, laugh-filled story of camaraderie and cataclysm.
The best thing about the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg apocalypse comedy This Is the End is its clever way with self-parody.
Less consistent is its embrace of audacious humor, inane stoner comedy and slapstick antics, including, but not limited to, gross-out jokes.
The film (*** out of four; rated R; opens Wednesday nationwide) is uneven and about 15 minutes too long. But when it's funny, it's hilarious. End hits all the right notes in its gleeful send-up of celebrity entitlement. It's particularly fun to watch these actors — the cornerstone of Judd Apatow comedies — poke fun at their public images.
The tale focuses on a group of actor pals — playing exaggerated versions of themselves — on the night of the apocalypse. As the world comes crashing down, these self-involved guys are hunkered down in James Franco's sprawling, ultra-modern Los Angeles bachelor pad. Eventually, things inside its walls implode, too.
Fights over rations are nothing compared to the thunderous clash of skyrocketing celebrity egos. One of the six becomes possessed by Satan. Or were they all already?
The audience is likely to identify with Jay Baruchel's character, an actor based in Canada. He's in town briefly, planning to spend a low-key weekend re-connecting with his old pal, Seth Rogen (who co-wrote and co-directed this film, along with his Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg). Rogen suggests they attend a party at Franco's house. Baruchel resists, pointing out how Franco rarely gets his name right. Plus, Baruchel dislikes most of the young egomaniacs Franco hangs with. But Rogen prevails and Baruchel reluctantly goes along.
The party is what mere mortals expect from a hip gathering of young Hollywood elite. Everyone from Rihanna to Harry Potter's Emma Watson shows up.
Rogen and Baruchel leave the party briefly for a liquor store run and find themselves in the midst of what seems like an earthquake. Armageddon looms. Only Baruchel seems to grasp the essence of what they just experienced.
When more catastrophe strikes, revelers flee the house, leaving only Franco, Jonah Hill, Rogen, Baruchel and Craig Robinson indoors. Soon, Danny McBride shows up and dials up the crude mayhem. We also get cameos from Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari and Jason Segel, who are among the unfortunate masses tumbling into sinkholes, one of which is dubbed "Sinkhole de Mayo."
This is not a movie for the easily offended. Accusations of "rapey vibes" and Franco and McBride proposing an auto-erotic competition could put some people off.
But it's an inspired idea: blending a disaster movie with a wacked-out comic bromance in which actors portray caricatures of themselves.
Franco plays a pretentious intellectual and Rogen an unabashed pothead. Hill pretends to be a nice guy, but he's knee-deep in arrogance. Some portrayals turn public perceptions on their head. Soft-spoken Michael Cera plays a lascivious coke-addled jerk.
Friendships are tested. Eventually the guys must face the cataclysm outdoors, where their varying fates await them. Redemption might be in the cards — or not.
But, hearty laughter, along with the end, is nigh.