'This Is The End' is a hilarious apocalyptic tale

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Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

Where would you want to spend your final hours on Earth? Alone to contemplate amongst majestic mountains? With a beautiful man/woman on a secluded beach? Or with your best pals, just about anywhere?

Jay Baruchel hasn't given the question much thought. But he does know one thing: "I don't want to die at James Franco's house."

"This Is the End" is just the latest apocalyptic comedy (think "Shaun of the Dead" and "Attack the Block"). But it stands out in the newly popular genre for one important reason: Every actor in the film plays himself.

A fictionalized version of himself, of course. If Seth Rogen indulged in real life in as many drugs as he does onscreen, he wouldn't appear in so many movies -- or be co-directing, with frequent writing collaborator Evan Goldberg, his first, as he is here. With a group of funny friends playing a group of funny friends, "This Is the End" could have come off as a self-indulgent work of inside baseball no one outside the gang would want to see. But these guys are really funny, and their fictionalized selves aren't so far off from the crazy characters they portray in comedies. Think of it as "Knocked Up" or "Pineapple Express" without the character names -- but with references everyone in the audience will get.

On screen
'This Is The End'
» Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
» Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco
» Directors: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
» Rated: R for crude and sexual content throughout, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence
» Running time: 106 minutes

Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles from his home in Montreal, looking forward to a fun weekend with best pal Rogen. The latter is the bigger star, of course, which means he gets recognized picking up his friend at the airport. "When are you going to do some real acting?" a heckler asks him. We soon see other contrasts between the friends. Though both grew up in Canada, only Jay still ends some sentences with "eh."

And Rogen hangs out with other lights of the comedy constellation. He drags a reluctant Baruchel to a housewarming party at James Franco's new pad, which he designed himself. (Franco is actually responsible for the hilarious paintings on display.) Baruchel doesn't like Franco, or the other guests, like Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson (and a very out-of-place Rihanna). So imagine his frustration when he ends up trapped in the mansion with them after the apocalypse begins and it's too dangerous to go outside.

Everyone has a different theory as to why L.A. has gone up in flames. Danny McBride thinks the Lakers might have finally won a game. Rogen suspects sinkholes. But Baruchel nails it: "Judgment Day." "Like Terminator 2?" Rogen asks? No, an exasperated Baruchel says -- the biblical one.

And so we have the end of days and a screamingly funny -- and intensely dirty -- film in which James Franco offers what might be the clearest explanation of the Trinity I've ever heard: "It's like Neapolitan ice cream." Friendship becomes fickle once reality sets in and the guys realize that food and water are in short supply, though as McBride jokes, "I'm sure the Green Goblin can afford more bacon."

That dig at Franco isn't the film's only one. These guys all take as much as they dish out, though McBride is the star of this show. The star of "Eastbound & Down" is simply willing to go further than the rest of them -- which, given that the rest of them includes some of the people who made "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," says rather a lot. Don't say I didn't warn you. But if you find most comedies made these days a little tiresome, "This Is the End" is the comedy to end all comedies. Until the next Danny McBride movie, anyway.

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