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From left, James Franco, Emma Watson and Seth Rogen star in This Is the End.

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From left, James Franco, Emma Watson and Seth Rogen star in This Is the End.

This Is the End

On its exterior, this end-of-the-world comedy offers a can't-miss blend of movie stars, bad behaviour, violent death, apocalyptic visuals and horror movie tropes.

But subtextually, you might say it's about Canadians attempting to preserve their niceness in the face of American ... not-niceness.

The premise from Canuck screenwriters/co-directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg: Vancouver-spawned Rogen picks up his Montreal-based buddy Jay Baruchel for a weekend of fun and frolic in Los Angeles, despite Baruchel's discomfort with the L.A. lifestyle.

Against Jay's wishes, the two head for a lavish party hosted by James Franco. The guest list is a who's who of entertainers (Rihanna, Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari) all bummed out -- fatally, in most cases -- when the City of Angels is smote by a non-specific disaster of biblical proportion.

Note the presence of Michael Cera. He may be here to puncture his image as an affable putz, portraying Michael Cera as a whoring, coke-snorting, obnoxious jerk. But in a particularly uncomfortable scene in a bathroom, he stands before Baruchel as an example of what happens to a nice Canadian boy who surrenders to a life of staggering self-indulgence.

The guys left in Franco's fortress-like abode -- Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride -- must fend for themselves as the food, wine, water and drug supply is diminished amid the evil that has gripped L.A. ... more so than usual.

Baruchel hits on the notion that this is the biblical apocalypse as described in Revelations. Their only hope from a hellish future is to exhibit simple human decency. But that's not as easy as it looks.

The six core actors riff off their personas in inventive ways, especially Franco and McBride.

Given the opportunity for a group of friends to engage in smirking, insider comedy la the Rat Pack, Rogen and Goldberg have crafted a surprisingly coherent, consistently funny piece of work.

For a movie shot in New Orleans and set in Los Angeles, This Is the End mostly stands as a thoroughly Canadian comedy.

The DVD includes multiple extras, including the original short film that inspired this: Jay and Seth Vs. the Apocalypse, and the hall-of-mirrors doc The Making of "The Making of Pineapple Express 2." ***1/2

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 C7

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