June 20, 2013

'This is the End' a top summer comedy


---- — The world will face total devastation on-screen at least a half-dozen more times this summer. It’s a safe bet that not one of those apocalypses will be funnier than “This is the End.”

Seth Rogen’s directorial debut, “This is the End” is wildly, offensively original and, well, funny as hell.

I can say that because the film brings the actual biblical apocalypse to the screen as tastelessly and comically as possible.

The film offers a host of Hollywood celebrities, all playing themselves — or obnoxious and self-involved caricatures (we hope) of themselves — on the eve of a global destruction that they didn’t see coming.

Rogen drags his reluctant buddy Jay Barcuchel (“Tropic Thunder”) to a monster blowout at James Franco’s narcissistic new pad. There’s some drinking, singing, drugs, sex and completely inappropriate behavior by Michael Cera (“Arrested Development”). You know, a typical party.

Then the end strikes, and all … fine, heck, breaks loose.

Partygoers are sucked into a fiery abyss, citizens are plucked from the streets by mysterious blue beams, Hollywood’s hills are set aglow with flames.

Several funny, shallow actors barricade themselves into Franco’s house and try to survive without Internet or TV until they can be rescued.

Baruchel, Franco and Rogen team with Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), Craig Robinson (“The Office”) and Danny McBride (“Pineapple Express”) for a large chunk of the film, and their interactions as the situation goes from bad to worse are generally hilarious. McBride, in particular, has never been better, while Baruchel — as what passes for the film’s moral compass — is excellent as well.

Those six shoulder the bulk of the work, though there are many, many familiar faces — Cera and Emma “Hermione” Watson deserve special mention, with Kevin Hart, Rihanna, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling and others making cameos.

Not every bit works, and the film is more than a little self-referential, but it is fiendishly unique, and it even has some pretty impressive special effects.

“This is the End” has set a fairly high bar for the rest of the summer’s comedies. It will take some doing to top it.

Rental Recommendation: After this, you just have to go and watch the entire lone season of “Freaks and Geeks.” Amazing how all the freaks have become stars. Grade: A+.

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This is the End

Grade: A-

Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel

Rated: R (Vulgar language, violence, gore, drug use, brief nudity, sexual situations, adult themes)

Running time: 107 minutes