This Is the End (Columbia Pictures, R)

thisistheend 75This isn’t so much one of those films that “hilariously” exposes how vapid and self-centered celebrities are; there is an element of that, of course, but here they’re more goofily oblivious than anything.

 

 

thisistheend 500

When Judd Apatow rose to power around the time of 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Hollywood comedies all at once seemed to get much better and more reliably funny. That’s tapered off in the past two or three years, though, to where some Hollywood comedies are still kind of funny, but none of them have made my top 10 list at the end of the year since 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. There’s a reasonably good chance that will change this year, though, as Seth Rogen (an Apatow find, of course) and Evan Goldberg’s directorial debut, This Is the End, is the hardest I’ve laughed at anything Hollywood’s put out since Jackass 3D.

Rogen and Goldberg as a team are best known for co-writing Superbad and Pineapple Express, and they both wrote for Da Ali G Show back in the day. Here, they’ve written a film that has a huge celebrity cast where everyone is playing themselves, or some broader, more horrible version of themselves. The core cast is Rogen, Jay Baruchel (the least-known name in the movie with the biggest part; still, you’ll probably recognize him from Knocked Up, She’s Out of My League, or Undeclared), The Office’s Craig Robinson, Eastbound & Down’s Danny McBride (in the best part he’s had since season one of that show; he’s great when he’s in the right role, as he is here), and Jonah Hill, who are all at a party at James Franco’s house when the apocalypse hits.

While more deserving people are zapped straight up to heaven, our group of celebrity friends (most/all of whom are friends in real life, and it shows) are caught in a sort of limbo. They’re too horrible of people to go to heaven, but Franco’s house is such a fortress, it guards them pretty successfully from the apocalypse outside. Meanwhile, the time bought by Franco’s house gives them all a chance to right their wrongs and become good people—if they could only stop bickering over who gets the last Milky Way long enough to do it. But really, this isn’t so much one of those films that “hilariously” exposes how vapid and self-centered celebrities are; there is an element of that, of course, but here they’re more goofily oblivious than anything. Meanwhile, our core group of six is surrounded by other people you’ll recognize, of various sized parts: Emma Watson (who seems to be the real hero of the film), Michael Cera (who is funny as fuck here; kind of makes you wonder if Rogen and Goldberg really, really hate him in real life, given how they wrote his role), Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Rihanna, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from Superbad), and many others.

I often say this, but my feeling is that it’s in your best interest to run out and see this as soon as possible, because if you wait too long you’re going to get really tired of hearing how funny it is, which will make it really hard to give it a fair chance. Ignore the trailer, which at once tries to make it look like some Scary Movie–style knockoff and does its best to render unfunny some of the movie’s funniest scenes. Also, there are flaws in the film if you’re looking for them: The CGI is pretty terrible, presumably intentionally so, and it’s a bit long for a movie like this—107 minutes, where I’d expect it to be more like 90. Still, there are very few parts of the film that drag, and just when it seems like it might be about to slow down, something new and hilarious comes up. | Pete Timmermann

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