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 scratch the surface, and 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 Seth 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.
Michael Cera is also here to puncture his image as an affable nebbish, portraying Michael Cera as a whoring, coke-snorting, obnoxious jerk. 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 -- Seth, Jay, James, 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.
It's a pressure-cooker environment. Instead of 12 Angry Men, think Six Self-Absorbed Actors.
Jay 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.
That's not as easy as it looks.
The six core actors riff off their personas in inventive ways, especially Franco (the sexually ambiguous artiste) and McBride (the butt of a joke about the awfulness of Your Highness).
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.
As with the Book of Revelations, it's all in how you read it.
Excerpts of reviews of This Is the End:
There is stuff in This Is the End that had me laughing so hard, I sensed new body parts joining in to help out -- my pancreas was heaving, my bile ducts ripped.
-- Kyle Smith, New York Post
It's the wildest screen comedy in a long time, and also the smartest, the most fearlessly inspired, and the snort-out-loud funniest.
-- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Its wild and hilarious elements don't cancel out its smug and lazy ones.
-- Jon Niccum, Kansas City Star
The thing really moves. Even the grottiest bits have a way of hitting their marks and darting onward, the way they did in Borat.
-- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
You are guaranteed to react to This Is the End, but you may have trouble at times deciding whether to laugh out loud or to avert your horrified gaze.
-- Peter Howell, Toronto Star
It's apocalyptically dirty. And it's hilarious.
-- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
You never know exactly what lunacy lurks around the corner, or just how far Rogen and Goldberg will push the R rating to its limit.
-- Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News
Apocalypse, wow. That's the gag for This Is the End and -- for whatever weird, zeitgeisty reason -- it's the joke du jour.
-- Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger