The answer is contained in This Is the End, a drugged-out disaster-comedy about the biblical End of Days. As portrayed by Rogen and many of his New Hollywood posse, Judgment Day comes not just as a downer in Tinseltown, but as the biggest party-pooper of all time, sucking the fun out of life for a handful of revel-rousers.
The best part of the humor in the screenplay by Rogen and his Superbad co-writer Evan Goldberg and it derives from a knowing mockery of youthful Hollywood excess. The actors even use their real names on screen, and go-along with the joke of portraying themselves as little more than celebrity vessels made up of bits and pieces from their best-known movie roles. Hence, as the party gets going in the cement designer home of James Franco, we are introduced to the stoned and self-absorbed James Franco of Pineapple Express fame.
Gags flow freely about Rogen’s “obnoxious” laugh and good-natured schlubbiness; Jay Baruchel’s aloof affectations; boyish Michael Cera’s secret fetishisms; Jonah Hill’s hollow sincerity; Craig Robinson’s extreme acquiescence; and so on.
After laying out the general snorting lines at the party, the script has Jay and Seth venture forth for a pack of cigarettes only to bear witness to the beginning of the end. Numerous blue beams of light suck pedestrians up into the clouds, even as the Hollywood hills burst into flame and fissures open onto pits of fire and brimstone.
You might think there could be no more chance for comedy in such a situation, but This Is the End shows you how wrong you are. Comedy and horror have proven a cozy fit ever since the first silent film comedians spent a night in a haunted house. The only difference here is one of a scale as a new generation of young comedians star in what could be called the ‘ultimate door-slamming farce.’
Once the partiers are finally awoken to the dangers, the film settles into a parody of disaster-film staples like securing the bunker, inventorying the food supplies, deciding on a rationing strategy, and choosing straws to perform various perilous missions inside and out of the comfort zone. As one would expect from a Hollywood satire, there are also numerous winks and allusions to other genre films like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. There are also numerous Harry Potter jokes, mostly surrounding the arrival of Emma Watson as a determined survivalist in this man-eat-man’s world.
The film loses some goodwill at the suggestion of rape as a topic of humor, and there are far too many allusions to male sexual abuse, as well. When Danny McBride arrives, the fantasy devolves into some of the grossest pornographic rants we may ever see in a mainstream film. Do not look for this one to be playing uncut on cross-country flights anytime soon.
For the most part, the screenplay remains consistent internally and recovers enough in the last act to find a satisfactory resolution for Seth and a few of the other deserving young stars. May they go on to find more cinema life after death.
Running Time: 106 minutes. It is rated R but probably should be considered NC-17 for its pornographic language and raunchy images.
This Is the End opens tomorrow Wednesday, June 12th at theaters everywhere. Check showtimes here.
This Is the End website.