“We should make sequels to more of our movies,” says Seth Rogen in the dismal vanity project “This Is the End.”
Just to be clear, that’s Rogen speaking as himself to a small crowd of other familiar actors also playing themselves. The group includes Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel and James Franco.
Fans of Rogen will instantly realize he’s the common denominator, having appeared with one or another (sometimes more) of these talented guys in such previous projects as television’s “Freaks and Geeks” and the comedies “Superbad,” “Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”
Rogen’s reference to sequels is the big in-joke at the core of “This Is the End.” There may or may not ever be follow-ups to those aforementioned films, but it’s true that most of the cast has gone on to better things, including Rogen with the wonderful “50/50” and Hill with his Oscar-nominated turn in “Moneyball.”
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“This Is the End” is intended as a hip, cleverly self-conscious, de facto sequel to the basest humor you can find in the earlier, collective work of these collaborators. Basically, Rogen (who co-wrote and co-directed this movie) and company appear to be saying, this is it, fans: We’re never going to be more outrageous and crude and frantic than this. So get it while you can.
Unfortunately, no one involved remembered that a story lurching moment-to-moment for inspiration, or full of ceaseless gags about every bodily fluid, or featuring rape jokes or the sight of Franco spitting food into Hill’s mouth, doesn’t pass as wit.
The script finds Rogen and Baruchel at Franco’s house on the night Armageddon strikes. While Los Angeles burns and demons roam, the six stars try to survive amid personality clashes, old grudges and an argument over who did what with a Penthouse magazine.
Brief appearances by Emma Watson, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna and others are slightly more fun and suggest that a self-effacing, big ensemble comedy about and with a new generation of rising stars could actually work.
That’s not the case with the self-congratulatory “This Is the End.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org