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"THIS IS THE END"
(2013) (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy/Horror: A group of famous actors must contend with the apparent end of the world.
PLOT:
Actor Jay Baruchel (playing himself, just like everyone else) has just arrived in Los Angeles to visit his long-time friend and fellow actor Seth Rogen. After getting high together, Seth proposes they go to a party being thrown by James Franco at his house. Jay isn't crazy about the idea as he says he isn't really into the Hollywood scene, but tags along anyway. There, they meet fellow stars such as Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Emma Watson, while Michael Cera is out of control and trying to come on to singer Rihanna.

Jay's finally had enough and convinces Seth to join him in going out for some cigarettes. While they're in the convenience store, there's a loud explosion followed by various people being sucked up through holes in the ceiling via blue beams that disappear into the sky. Jay and Seth race back to James' party where the same happens there moments later, causing a panic among everyone, especially when a giant sink-hole opens that seemingly falls away into the fiery pit of Hell.

Nearly everyone is killed, with James, Seth, Jay, Jonah and Craig trying to barricade the home's door. They're also surprised to see that another actor, Danny McBride, apparently crashed the party the night before and was passed out during the entire event. With the rest of Los Angeles apparently destroyed and some sort of demonic monster roaming about outside, the survivors try to figure out what to do, all while contemplating what's occurred and whether it has any Biblical connections or not.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
In the world of disaster movies, there are two categories. One involves a specific locale and event, such as a burning skyscraper ("The Towering Inferno") or cruise ship hit by a rogue wave and turned upside down ("The Poseidon Adventure"). The other occurs on a global scale and comes in its own two varieties. The first involves everyday moments leading up to and then through the actual cataclysmic event itself, be that an attack from outer space ("Independence Day") or from here on Earth ("The Day After Tomorrow"). The second takes place post-Apocalypse and features the survivors and now they've gotten on with their lives (such as the quite recent "Oblivion" and "After Earth").

Judged by its title alone, "This is the End" could either be another filmed look at the rock group The Doors, its ill-fated lead singer and one of their signature songs so prominently featured in "Apocalypse Now" -- or a disaster movie. Considering it comes from and features many of the comic staples of the Judd Apatow movie universe, a flick about "Mr. Mojo Risin" never seemed likely, so we'll go with the disaster route and head down the path of funny vs. seriousness and/or action.

Not to imply that either of those elements is absent from this outrageous and decidedly R-rated comedy. Based on the low-budget and apparently never publically displayed 2007 short film "Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse" by Jason Stone and returning writers/directors Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, this 106-some minute pic is part disaster flick, part horror movie, part Hollywood satire and a lot of self-indulgent, frat boy mentality excess. Fans of the targeted demographic will likely eat it up, but those who barely know or don't recognize any of the various grade stars likely won't get many of the jokes.

With Rogen, along with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Michael Cera and others all playing themselves -- or at least their perception of how Hollywood and the public view them and their personas -- the film also comes off as a big inside joke as mixed with a "Scary Movie" style spoof of disaster and horror films, complete with an extended sequence lifted from and inspired by a film that was made before many of those involved were born, "The Exorcist."

The film begins with the arrival of Baruchel meeting Rogen in LAX upon flying in to see his old friend. He doesn't like LaLa land, nor does he want to hang with Rogen's celebrity friends. Nonetheless, after the requisite pot-smoking montage, they arrive at Franco's new home down below the Hollywood sign. There, Rogen and Golberg deliver bits -- that vary in terms of generating laughs -- about how Hollywood types behave behind closed doors.

And then all hell breaks loose -- metaphorically and literally -- as the Earth starts shaking, a huge fiery sinkhole swallows most of the partygoers, and beams of light from Heaven suck up the morally good from the crowd (few if any from the party go, but some bystanders in a nearby convenience store make the upward trip).

The survivors then huddle down in Franco's place and go through the standard material of alternating between trying to survive, figuring out what's going on, and getting on each other's nerves while also doing some male bonding. All while one or more fiery, winged demons lurk about outside (and keep getting bigger each time we see them), another monster gives a few of the guys a good scare, and one of the dudes goes down the old Linda Blair path.

While none of that or the rest of the flick is meant to be taken seriously, a strong religious angle pervades the work and grows as it goes. Most of that stems from Baruchel believing this is Old Testament material coming to life, something the others scoff off at first, but eventually realize is likely true and that they need to change their way in order to pass through the Pearly Gates. Now before anyone thinks the guys or the film get too righteous, it should be noted that ample pot, bikini-clad babes, strong profanity and more (including a reunion of a boy band) appear in Heaven. Nevertheless, it's an interesting development in a film such as this.

The true litmus test, though, is whether the film delivers what it promises up front -- big laughs regarding the end of the world. As earlier stated, fans of this sort of material will undoubtedly eat this up, especially with repeated references to and even a send up of a sequel to "The Pineapple Express" (a stoner comedy starring Rogen and Franco for those who don't follow them).

I'll admit I laughed aloud quite a few times, be that from some of the spoofy material, other outrageous comedy and various self-deprecating bits about the stars themselves and their past work. That said, a little of the sex, penis and other frat boy style jokes and humor goes a long way, and the cast and crew delve into and rely on all of that perhaps a bit too much. All of which gets around to my belief that it could have been so much better had as many or more of the jokes come from above the shoulders rather than below the belt.

Then again, that might be asking or expecting too much for a film that promises to aim low and admittedly hits its mark with a bull's-eye quite often. Definitely not for young kids (or many adults for that matter), "This is the End" isn't anything great, but it certainly delivers on what it's intending to do and be. The film rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 5, 2013/ Posted June 12, 2013


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