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Review: 'This is the End' an outrageous way to go out

At left, Seth Rogen. Above, his pals James Franco, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson.
At left, Seth Rogen. Above, his pals James Franco, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson.
Published Jun. 12, 2013

This Is the End proves what we've always suspected: Seth Rogen is down with playing the same guy in movies each time, James Franco has a creepy man crush on him, Jonah Hill is Rosemary's baby all grown up and Danny McBride is a cannibal. Oh, yeah, and Michael Cera's sweet face masks a raging coke head sex addict who'd slap Rihanna's butt and dig the smack back.

Funny how everyone's true colors come out at Armageddon. Seriously, it's funny even if these show biz character assassinations aren't true. This Is the End isn't a documentary, thank god, or else we'd all be beamed to heaven or dunked in hell by now. It really isn't much of a movie in the traditional sense; even Harold & Kumar's similar adventures are more artistically tied together.

But you have to give props to This Is the End for being so ruthlessly outrageous about sex, celebrity, drugs and religious dogma, all subjects of worship in one way or another. Written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this movie piles on bad taste and worse to an aberrant degree. How it dodged an NC-17 rating without trimming anything is a mystery Kevin Smith wants solved.

The movie hinges on the meta conceit that everyone is playing themselves, although using real names and a lot of weed are probably the only things true about their roles. Rogen is hosting his friend Jay Baruchel for a weekend in L.A.; they kill time getting high and gaming before dropping into a star-studded party at Franco's house. Wild times that'll get wilder soon.

Before you can say Irwin Allen, Los Angeles is plunged into biblical disaster, with blue rays of light lifting some people upward and yawning sinkholes sending others below. Real fire and brimstone stuff, with a horned and horny demon stalking whoever's left behind. A small circle of Franco friends — Rogen, Baruchel, Hill and Craig Robinson — stumble into survival mode, interrupted at key points by McBride and, of all people, Emma Watson. That's right, the Harry Potter chick.

This Is the End plows through and laughs at unsavory doomsday scenarios, from playing soccer with a severed head to a "rapey vibe" when Watson's around. Franco and McBride's tiff about carelessly deposited bodily fluids takes the gag too far then goes further, hilariously. There are no boundaries in this movie, so deal with it or leave.

But if you do walk out early, you'll miss the movie's sole redeeming social value, when the question is raised of why Rogen, Franco and the others haven't been pulled to heaven. Aren't they good enough? Golden rule enough? By taking this theological dilemma to its illogically toe-tapping conclusion, This Is the End declares there's velvet rope life after death, and devilish laughter, too.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.