“Is the power of Christ compelling me? Is that what’s happening?”
Way back in 2007 there was a YouTube trailer for a short film entitled Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse that whetted fans’ appetites only to never seen by the public. Time went on, nothing appeared to be happening—which wasn’t necessarily a horrible thing since the trailer wasn’t all that funny—and eventually word came down it was being retooled by the titular Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg into their directorial debut This is the End. Now six years later, it looks like Mandate Pictures was smart when deciding to mothball the original Jason Stone helmed short because there is no way its nine minutes could come close to matching the level of sheer audacity the duo packed into the meta fight against hell it spawned.
Led by Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride, this end of days set action comedy shows just how self-deprecating celebrities can be given the right circumstances. Playing off the myriad stereotypes America’s ticket-buying public loves to project upon them, every actor involved willingly dives headfirst into the task of mocking themselves, slandering each other, and not caring about their image for the sake of the joke. Robinson goes through the entire thing with a towel on his shoulder embroidered by his name; Franco pokes fun at his Renaissance Man persona while watching his sexuality get called into question; Hill’s nice-guy shtick reveals itself as a fabricated act masking anger and frustration; and McBride goes so over-the-top in his pompous villainy that—no, he’s probably actually playing himself.
These guys are friends in real life and therefore believably drawn together for some consequence-free fun at Franco’s new pad with the only glaring omission being little brother Dave’s absence. Michael Cera is smacking Rihanna’s ass; Kevin Hart is cracking up with Jason Segel; Mindy Kaling creepily ogles Cera from afar; and Christopher Mintz-Plasse gets a face full of cocaine blown his way. The place is teeming with A-list talent from Emma Watson to Paul Rudd and keeps it real with Judd Apatow regular Martin Starr visibly in the background. It’s the Los Angeles scene Rogen has entrenched himself after leaving Canada and the group of people with whom he loves to work and play. Only Jay is an outsider after not quite finding mainstream notoriety post-Tropic Thunder or She’s Out of My League.
Visiting Rogen for a few days to catch up and chill, Baruchel wants nothing to do with the Hollywood elite or the lifestyle that has consumed his best friend. He can no longer put on the saccharine smile like Hill does with aplomb and hopes to duck out early with or without Seth in tow. But before he can escape after a quick cigarette run, the Earth shakes, beams of blue light abduct strangers around him, and all hell literally breaks loose. What follows is a hysterical mass genocide of all the comedians you’ve grown to love plummeting into a gigantic sinkhole and the breathless survival of Jay, Seth, Craig, Jonah, and James. Holing up inside the fortress Franco himself designed, they pool together their resources and pray to make it out alive.
It’s a brilliant premise that everyone is wholeheartedly on board with—a bunch of soft dudes who act hard onscreen scared out of their minds. McBride comes and goes, fire and brimstone erupts outside, and a few demons even get in on the fun to make the guys scream. But no matter how hilarious the situations or how unraveled each actor gets in the face of their mortality, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the plot drags here. The constant hunt for food and water, the deep-seeded ego possessing all, and the absolute lack of work ethic when it comes to manual labor becomes redundant while waiting for whatever unfathomable conclusion they’ll wrap it all up with. I can only listen to so many dick jokes before growing restless in my desire to know what’s actually happening.
Thankfully Rogen and Goldberg do find their endgame in the Book of Revelations and go absolutely bonkers with the type of insanity such a direction provides. We get homage to The Exorcist, some post-apocalyptic cannibals dressed in Mad Max garb, and monsters straight out of Zuul’s Ghostbusters’ repertoire. Heads are decapitated, bodies are popped like balloons, and survival of the fittest transforms into survival of the most conniving. The boys mourn the loss of friends, turn on one another, and eventually strive to discover their own humanity before it’s too late. Some find humility while others bask in their hubris and through it all exists the age-old scenario of life-long chums unwittingly growing apart. Who knows how much of the Rogen/Baruchel dynamic is a true exorcising of demons, but ultimately who cares?
This is the End provides the thing today’s society of living vicariously through horrible people who lie, cheat, steal, and sleep their way into our consciousness covets most—a forum to watch the famous fall apart when money and power is rendered obsolete. They are just as petty, cruel, and vindictive on the road to empathy as we are, except they’re much funnier in the process. Rogen and Goldberg distort their buddies’ identities into vain creatures holding themselves higher than God and watch as each revels in the opportunity to exist within the heightened reality to see whether our baseless opinions of them are strong enough to survive it. A laugh-fest for us, I’m sure it’s even more fun for them. After all, who wouldn’t want an epic death scene at the end of the world?
 L-r, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen in Columbia Pictures’ “This Is The End,” also starring Jonah Hill. PHOTO BY: Suzanne Hanover, SMPSP © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
 L-r, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen and James Franco in Columbia Pictures’ “This Is The End,” also starring Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel and Jonah Hill. PHOTO BY: Suzanne Hanover © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.
 L-r, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and Jay Baruchel star in Columbia Pictures’ “The Is The End.” PHOTO BY: Suzanne Hanover © 2013 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.