This Is The End
3 out of 5

There’s a good concept behind This Is the End: pampered Hollywood stars, playing themselves, prove incapable of putting the needs of others ahead of their own — even as they face Judgment Day.

Too bad the film doesn’t quite deliver.

The writer/director combo of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad) only goes so far towards skewering the actors they coerced to appear — and by allowing them to improvise, a movie that could’ve been edgy settles for being merely amusing.

The setup features clear Canadian DNA, as the affable Jay Baruchel travels to L.A. to visit fellow Canuck Seth Rogen. Baruchel isn’t fond of the city, and even less so of Rogen’s circle of friends (James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride… you get the idea). Then comes the Rapture, which finds the pair in the midst of a party at Franco’s mansion. The body count is high, and Baruchel ends up stuck for eternity with the people he despises the most.

This is the End is ripe with cameos, with a coked-out Michael Cera and leading-man-turned-sex-slave as the standouts. But the script is annoyingly inconsistent: for every hilarious riff on James Franco’s artistic pretentiousness, some supposedly funny scenes go on for too long with no payoff (do we really need another Exorcist spoof?). A tighter screenplay and a whiff of discipline could’ve done wonders for this film.

The unexpected MVP of This Is the End is Danny McBride. By exploiting his unpleasant, overly confident persona, McBride owns up to being a conceited Hollywood phony, while the rest of his friends try to convince themselves they’re decent folk. (“We are artists,” says Franco: “We bring joy to the people!”) The (likely unintended) contrast gives the movie its finest moments, which are also its darkest.