T he world won’t end with just a bang or a whimper but also a truckload of sophomoric humor and Hollywood in-jokes. At least that’s the way Seth Rogen and a bunch of his movie-star buddies see it in “This Is the End,” a riff on the apocalypse that’s closer in spirit to Harold & Kumar than Genesis and Revelation.
Directed and written by Rogen and friend Evan Goldberg (who wrote “Pineapple Express”), and based on a short film by Jason Stone, “This Is the End” is one extended meta joke about stardom and celebrity that goes on too long and gets derailed by the pair’s desire to keep upping the level of comedic absurdity and cheesy special effects. Still, there are lots of low-brow laughs, especially in the first half.
As with everyone else in the film, Rogen plays himself, or at least a crude caricature of his geeky persona. He has invited Jay Baruchel (“Tropic Thunder”), an actor friend and fellow Canadian, to L.A. for some down time. They head over to James Franco’s new place for a house party, and that’s where the whole crew — Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Rihanna, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, basically anyone who has ever walked by a Judd Apatow set — is ready to have a good time.
But then the Rapture happens (Spoiler alert: None of the celebs gets called to heaven), massive quakes reduce L.A. to rubble, and Seth, Jay, Craig, James, Danny and Jonah are left to fend for themselves amid an atmosphere of camaraderie, cowardice and cracks about each others’ movies.
The film is at its buddy-movie, Hollywood-skewering best when staying on the human level. Even the usually repellent McBride has a few good lines.
Yet as events become more supernatural, “This Is the End” spirals into over-the-top silliness — Hill getting possessed probably sounded good on paper — as Seth and Jay struggle to find a way to get into heaven. It’s as if Rogen and Goldberg, making their directing debut, couldn’t keep up the conceit.
It’s an apocalypse of a different sort for filmmakers when they run out of ideas long before their movie ends.