At first glance, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg's directorial debut, This is the End is at risk of looking just the tiniest bit smug. The notion of a multi-million dollar budget comedy in which a group of millionaire actors play themselves cruising round L.A. in a haze of marijuana smoke, attending lavish parties at James Franco's Hollywood mansion, is in grave danger as coming across as an alienating vanity project, but a clever concoction of character subversion, self-deprecation and abundance of good gags negate any sense of self indulgence.
The premise is simple: when Jay Baruchel flies down to visit his old buddy, Seth Rogan, the two set off to a star studded house party at James Franco's place, when a catastrophic earth quake hits the Hollywood Hills, claiming the lives of everyone at the party, save Rogan, Baruchel, Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride. It soon becomes clear the devastation is part of the oncoming apocalypse, leaving the actors to fight for survival within the confines of James Franco's luxury mansion.
Childhood friends, Rogan and Goldberg have taken the ingredients list from a recipe for disaster and served up a hearty dish of smut, parody and belly laughs. There is even a hint of satire beneath the jokes about ejaculation and titty-fucking, as the writers begin to poke fun at the superficial nature of the Hollywood scene, as well as the odd acerbic nod to the less accomplished work in our stars' portfolios (Green Hornet, Spiderman 3 etc). There may not be much originality beyond the apocalyptic conceit, but there are more than enough successful gags and surprises along the way to make This is the End the best film Rogan and Goldberg have produced to date. The film relies heavily on the improvisational skills of its talented cast, as well as celebrity cameos, but it's hard to believe that this is the same writing team that brought us last year's painfully laugh-free The Watch.
After numerous false starts, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg's long search for a worthy successor to their breakout hit, Superbad has finally arrived, and This is the End supersedes their 2007 movie in almost all departments. It's is bold and brash, tasteless and childish, hysterical and indulgent, but most importantly, it's very, very funny. The best main stream comedy in years- this will be a monster hit.