Alien invasion? Zombie attack? A massive, catastrophic earthquake?
Nope, in This Is the End it really is the end - an old-fashioned, New Testament apocalypse, straight out of the Book of Revelation and happening right now, in plain sight of the Hollywood sign.
But not to worry. "Who do they rescue first?" asks Jonah Hill, the Oscar-nominated thespian, trying to reassure his fellow real-life movie, TV, and music biz stars, all of whom have flocked to James Franco's new million-dollar digs for an unfortunately timed housewarming party. "Actors," that's who.
Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, This Is the End is a devilishly demented, psychoactive screwball comedy in which dozens of coddled celebs - Rogen, Franco, Jay Baruchel, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd, Rihanna, Jason Segel, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Craig Robinson, Mindy Kaling, and Danny McBride among 'em - find themselves facing the fire and brimstone of a wrathful God. Molten sinkholes, satanic beasts, beams of light plucking the lucky few to heaven while the rest are left to their own devices - and to personal digital devices that no longer seem to work.
What's a bunch of overpaid narcissist heathens to do?
Taking a page or two from The Larry Sanders Show, Louis C.K.'s series, and other meta-comedies in which the protagonists serve up tweaked and skewed versions of themselves, This Is the End is a raging hoot not only for its Perez Hilton-esque voyeuristic pleasures (Michael Cera - a coked-out wild man!), but also for the cataclysmic tropes the movie runs through. You want exorcism? Survivalist panic? An axe-wielding Hermione Granger out to get the swarms of undead she thinks are after her flesh? Check, check, check.
This Is the End is the first purposefully funny doom-and-devastation thriller to hit the multiplexes this summer, following in the postapocalyptic wake of Oblivion and After Earth, with Pacific Rim, Elysium, World War Z, and The World's End still to come. What's it all mean? Maybe those dire climate change forecasts are beginning to sink in.
Hopefully, This Is the End is less prophetic than it is paranoiac - the kind of paranoia that comes from ingesting vast amounts of cannabis and other controlled substances. Whatever it is, it's out of control - out-of-control hilarious.
This Is the End *** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. With Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Emma Watson, Rihanna, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Michael Cera. Distributed by Sony Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, drugs, nudity, sex, violence, adult themes, the Rapture)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, On Movies Online, at www.inquirer.com/onmovies.