The formula for studio comedies the last 20 years has been simple: Dude acts like a dick for an hour, turns blandly sweet toward the end, and then everyone on the DVD commentary can claim to have made a movie about redemption. Perhaps Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's wrath-of-God hang-out flick This Is the End
can kill redemption cold. A deeply nondenominational Left Behind
rip, the film makes absurdly literal the prick-becomes-a-man plotting that has held sway since Billy Madison. Here, it's judgment day, and our schlubby everydudes (playing themselves, who aren't everydudes at all) are holed up for the apocalypse in James Franco's compound. After much talk of where it's appropriate to ejaculate, the lugs--including Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Franco--realize the obvious: Good people have already been raptured, and these guys haven't. ("I'm an actor," one moans in disbelief. "I bring people joy!") If they want a happy ending, and not to be devoured by horizon-straddling hellbeasts with schoolbus-sized phalluses, they'll have to stop being dicks and give the universe a reason to love them. Baruchel treats us to a winning shy-dude turn reminiscent of his itchy, appealing work years back on Judd Apatow's TV comedy Undeclared
, and when all the cock-talk lets up, Rogen and Goldberg parade memorable surprises. There are ridiculous cameos (Emma Watson spits "fuck" like the word still means something), shock-effect horror kills (often of those cameo-ing actors), and stoned riffs on The Exorcist
and Pineapple Express
. Especially pleasurable are the light, hilarious gags on the cluelessness of Hollywood actors, especially from Jonah Hill, who has rarely been this disarming.