The lads of Hollywood's "Pot Pack" get together for a riotous riff on The Rapture in "This is the End," an often hilarious/generally irreverent comedy about the biblical apocalypse as seen through the windows of a movie star's mansion.
Inventing versions of their real selves to play, "End" begins with old Seth Rogen pal Jay Baruchel visiting him in Los Angeles, getting baked and complaining about Rogen's running mates - James Franco, Jonah Hill and their ilk. Baruchel ("She's Out of My League") is then dragged to a rowdy party at Franco's Architecture Digest showplace of a home, where Franco can't remember his name. Hill fawns all over him, unconvincingly trying to persuade Baruchel that they shouldn't be enemies. And Craig Robinson ("Peeples") leads the mob in a few choruses of "Take Yo' Panties Off."
The first thing that works here is this madcap party, where Jason Segel rips his undemanding, formulaic TV comedy ("How I Met Your Mother") to Kevin Hart. Emma Watson endures the ogling of the lads and Rihanna ups her cool quotient by slapping Michael Cera, who consumes mass quantities of coke and sex and generally punctures his effeminate nice-boy image. The party is so funny it could be its own movie.
And then The End begins. Baruchel is the surrogate for the audience, the one who sees the beams of light pulling the righteous up into heaven. Since nobody at the party was "Raptured," nobody believes him. When the earth quakes, the fires begin and doom rains down - "Tsunami? Zombie invasion?" - most partygoers are quickly consumed. The five leads, in various states of outrageous denial, are left to fend for themselves.
And then Danny McBride shows up, taking things to a new level. His redneck rage, contempt for the "sell-outs" and career stumbles and the very profession they all share blasts from his lips - every line a killer, no line quotable in polite company. When he's in it, "End" is the living end of rapture spoofs. When he leaves, the energy plunges.
Rogen, who co-wrote and directed this, lets the fun go on too long. But the effects are grand and often R-rated, and for a movie as over the R-rating line as this one often is, there's a surprisingly sweet message about the road to redemption.