With the underrated and misunderstood Pineapple Express, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride and co-screenwriter Evan Goldberg made a rock-solid American counterpart to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It was a genre film told from the perspective of the kind of people who consumed such entertainment—in this case, a bunch of dopey stoners caught in the middle of an '80s action movie. Those who decried it as—or mistook it for—a bad action movie injected with comedy seriously missed the point: What would happen if Lethal Weapon were remade with a pair of seriously high jackasses as the leads?
With This Is the End, Rogen and company follow the example of Shaun's Edgar Wright, jumping genres to the biblical apocalypse and casting Rogen, Franco, Jonah Hill and almost everyone who's ever been in a Judd Apatow movie as horrible caricatures of themselves. As the Rapture hits and sends pretty much everybody to heaven—except for those at Franco's housewarming party—these dudes are perfectly content to sit back, smoke weed and tell dick jokes. Like, a lot of dick jokes.
It all sounds juvenile, especially when you add an exorcism, demons with huge swinging genitals and a lot of gore. But for the most part, This Is the End works like gangbusters, particularly in the way the actors lampoon their public personas. Franco is a riot as a pretentiously arty man-child with a BFF crush on Rogen. McBride is a more awful version of Kenny Powers. Rogen is just a resin-stained Fozzie Bear. The only loose end is Jay Baruchel, whose incessant whining drags down the film, though he's somewhat saved by the very welcome presence of Craig Robinson.
These dudes are a blast to hang out with, and while some may compare this to Adam Sandler's masturbatory Grown Ups—which was seemingly an excuse for him to hang with his bros in a cabin—This Is the End has endless chuckles. There are even some time-capsule moments, particularly a prolonged and heated debate between Franco and McBride regarding the latter's frequent and explosive ejaculations. These dudes could make any movie fun. That this one happens to have decapitations and a brawl with Satan takes it to another level of stoned-out bliss. Critic's Grade: B.