You can’t make this stuff up. OK, maybe you can. When Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen decided to embark on their directorial debut, they must have spent many hours huddled together to come up with the perfect concept. When they finally reached that perfect pitch they threw it in the trash can and decided to have fun instead. The whole idea is based on a short film by Jason Stone called Jay And Seth vs. The Apocalypse. With a title like that, you probably already know more than you need to know to figure out this movie.
It starts when Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to visit his buddy Seth Rogen. Seth has been trying to help his old friend fit in with his new Hollywood friends. Jay doesn’t really like the Hollywood guys and resists any chance to hang out with them. Of course, Seth also has a week of weed and video games planned, which is more Jay’s speed. Seth does get Jay to agree to come with him to James Franco’s housewarming party. That goes pretty much the way Jay expected. He gets some “fake” nice talk from the assembled celebs and is basically abandoned by Seth. The night’s going pretty much according to plan…well…except for the nasty Apocalypse that just happens to strike while Jay’s making a store run. The Earth is opening up and fire is raining down on the world. Some folks are being beamed up in bright blue shafts of light. So he heads back to Franco’s where no one believes him. But if you can’t bring this collection of funny guys to the Apocalypse, the Apocalypse comes to the funny guys. A huge hole opens up on the lawn and most of the party guests get sucked into the ground.
Next morning the survivors awaken to find that there are only a few left: Seth, Jay, Franco, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Emma Watson. The rest of the film has them getting on each other’s nerves while trying to figure out what is going on. They have to deal with a limited amount of supplies and a group of people that generally only care about themselves. To make it all worse, they figure out that this is indeed the end of times and the people sucked up in the rays were the rapture folks going directly to Heaven. Now their goal is not only to survive but try to become the kind of person who would get sucked up into Heaven.
Believe it or not, what sounds like the ultimate ego-fest has some truly clever moments. Each character takes advantage of their on-screen image. The best case here is Danny McBride who is pretty much out of control throughout the film. It’s not just a gag limited to the comic actors in the group. Although she has a rather small role in the film, Harry Potter’s Emma Watson sheds her own good-girl image in one of the film’s best scenes. She overhears a conversation among the guys that makes her think they’re arguing over who gets to rape her. She lashes out, and it brought a riotous response from our screening’s audience. The film is actually loaded with these kinds of situations. I can think of worse places to be when the world comes to an end.
Give credit to each of the performers who appear willing to go all out to riff on themselves. James Franco might not get many of the film’s laughs, but he is a pretty good straight man, all the while appearing to be so self-absorbed that he makes Paris Hilton appear camera-shy. For Seth, Craig, Jay and Jonah it’s all about the chemistry. Any of them on their own here would come across completely dry. It’s the situation and the interactions that keep it all interesting. Franco does get one of the best laughs when he attempts to sacrifice himself to get into Heaven.
It’s not just the lead cast that has fun making fun of themselves. The party includes the likes of: Rihanna, Michael Cera (who really plays along with this whole making-fun-of-yourself routine), Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paul Rudd, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart and Aziz Ansari.
The film borrows heavily from the likes of Ghostbusters. Like that film, we get treated to serious film f/x in the destruction and mayhem depicted. The film could very easily have been a straight end-of-world effort. There are a few creatures that are also quite well rendered including a giant beast that stomps his way through Hollywood. While the film didn’t cost a huge amount to make, the f/x make it appear bigger than it really is.
Of course, the film can’t resist the toilet humor. You can forgive them the occasional phallic joke, but they do tend to run a bit longer than necessary with those gags. Let’s just say these guys don’t trust you to “get it” right away. The truth is they’re sometimes having too much fun that they might have forgotten they were also in the business of entertaining the film audience. Not to worry, they manage to do that anyway, sometimes in spite of their best attempts. You see, the best moments of the film are when they’re not quite trying so hard. Throw in an unnecessary coda and you find yourself wishing someone else was in that room we talked about earlier to give these guys a time-out once in a while. Still, you can’t help but have some fun. “Seth, that’s some of the best acting I’ve seen you do in the past 10 years.”