Review by Bob Ignizio
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing team responsible for the extremely funny films SUPERBAD and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (and who were also responsible for the extremely unfunny films THE GREEN HORNET and THE WATCH) have decided to apply their talents to the goal of finding the laughs in Armageddon with THIS IS THE END. The film is based on a short Rogen and Goldberg co-wrote with Jay Stone back in 2007, and as in that earlier film Rogen and his Undeclared co-star Jay Baruchel are two of the poor souls “left behind” when the rapture takes place and all the good people get lifted into Heaven. Also left behind to suffer the torments of Hell on Earth are some of the other Hollywood types Rogen calls friends, including James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, and Emma Watson.
Everyone plays themselves as petty if not downright horrible, and the film gets a lot of mileage out of its mix of self deprecating humor and gross-out gags. Rogen certainly doesn't spare himself, even including an obvious but nonetheless funny joke about how it's nothing new that he's playing himself, since that's essentially what he does in all his movies. Most of the laughs are considerably less cerebral than that, however, with more than the mandatory minimum of masturbation, drug, and dick jokes.
THIS IS THE END is directed by Rogen and Goldberg themselves, their first time doing so, and they prove themselves more than capable of the task. As in the better films the duo have written, they manage to strike a good balance between comedy and more substantive emotional issues. They also do a better including action film elements here than David Gordon Green did when with PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. It's difficult to find the right balance of tone in a movie like this, but Rogen and Goldberg manage it deftly, never letting the horror get in the way of a good laugh while at the same time managing not to undermine the film's more serious moments.
There are a few minor missteps – for example, Cera is funny, but it also feels a bit too much like he's doing the Neil Patrick Harris in HAROLD AND KUMAR thing, and after what would have been a great ending, the movie keeps going with one of those apparently obligatory song and dance finales. And let's face it, for some people the jokes are going to be too crass, while for others the idea of making jokes about what to them is a very real religious belief just isn't going to fly. For the rest of us, though, this is an extremely funny film that, even stripped of its jokes, would still work pretty well as a straight-up end of the world flick. Bonus points for the ROSEMARY'S BABY joke and for Channing Tatum's cameo appearance. 3 1/2 out of 4 stars.