Bromantic comedy “This Is the End” does not disappoint

Alex Williams

With their previous works, “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express,” Seth Rogen and writing partner Evan Goldberg perfected the formula of the bromantic comedy. The pair’s directorial debut, “This Is The End,” covers similar ground to diminishing returns, offsetting the familiarity with a hilarious survival narrative and a surprisingly impressive apocalyptic scale.

“This Is The End” deviates from your standard apocalypse film by letting its stars play exaggerated versions of themselves, tweaking their personalities for maximum comedic effect. Rogen and Jay Baruchel play old friends reuniting for a weekend, their long-standing relationship tested by Rogen’s success and Baruchel’s immaturity. Tensions mount when Rogen drags Baruchel to a party at James Franco’s house, and the film delivers a revolving door of cameos, including Michael Cera, playing against type as a brash cocaine vacuum in Rogen’s most demented bit of casting.

Just as Baruchel confronts Rogen, the apocalypse happens, and the pair find themselves trapped at Franco’s house with a small ensemble of game comedic actors. Of the few survivors, Craig Robinson portrays himself as a terrified teddy bear with no idea how to react to impending doom, while Jonah Hill plays against type as the most aggressively friendly guy in the room. Danny McBride is easily the MPV, cranking his caustic screen persona all the way up and taking his brand of bullheadedness to revolting extremes.

While Rogen and Goldberg’s previous films have smartly balanced the pathos of male camaraderie with spurts of juvenile comedy, “This Is The End” has trouble keeping Baruchel and Rogen’s friendship front and center. Baruchel’s character is consistently unpleasant to everyone around him, and while learning to stop being self-righteous is his character’s arc, it also makes him hard to root for. It’s easy for the rest of the cast’s rapid-fire joke delivery to overshadow the film’s emotional center.

“This Is The End” finishes strong, and the final sequence of the film steps up the scale in a huge way. While the film was made on a relatively low budget, you can tell where the money went once Rogen and Goldberg unleash stunningly impressive and massive monsters on our heroes. Even though the film’s final stretch indulges in the directors’ juvenile mind-set a bit too often — especially when dealing with massive demonic genitalia — this is the rare comedy where things get funnier as they get more horrific, and “This Is The End” even manages to salvage its struggling central friendship story line in a few genuinely sweet moments.

“This Is The End” is more or less “The Avengers” of comedy, gathering together a few of the sharpest young actors working in the genre for a hyper-meta ensemble piece that avoids being self-congratulatory. Even though the film has trouble negotiating where its occasionally corny jokes and troublesome narrative meet up, “This Is The End” is a top-notch assembly of hilarious jokes, apocalyptic chaos and hysterical performances, making it a strong comedic counterpoint to the spectacle of summer cinema.