"Hey, Seth Rogen! What up, man?"
The voice comes from an unseen admirer during the opening scene of "This Is the End," a comedy set in Los Angeles during the Rapture. Rogen's polite reaction: a grin-and-bear-it, price-of-fame smile.
"This Is the End" will go on to include decapitation, cannibalism and various excreta, but that little exchange between fan and star sets the tone for the movie. "This Is the End" is your chance -- especially if you're a 20-ish male -- to hang out with Rogen and a bromantic dream team of James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and Jay Baruchel, all playing versions of themselves, or at least of their personas. But these Hollywood types also portray themselves as the insulated, overpaid, undercontributing members of society that you sometimes suspect they are.
The story begins during a cameo-filled shindig, where Jason Segel is explaining sitcom drudgery to Kevin Hart, and Rihanna is fending off a coked-up Michael Cera. After the party winds down -- literally -- a core group of survivors huddles in Franco's modernist mansion (a set, not his actual house). As rations dwindle and someone ruins the communal porno magazine, loyalties begin to splinter. "We could build a life together," Baruchel tells Robinson. "I'd be really good to you."
"This Is the End," directed and written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg from their 2007 short, "Jay and Seth vs. the Apocalypse," is such a dedicated bro-down that it barely acknowledges the existence of women (Emma Watson randomly enters, then quickly exits). Oddly, that's a strength. With no outsiders to coddle, this tight-knit ensemble locks into a groove and reaches some truly giddy heights, turning even the weakest material (a spoof of "The Exorcist") into anarchic fun. They also wisely mix the meta-jokes with actual jokes that would work even without the boldface names.
Still, it's the ongoing friction between fan worship and schadenfreude that gives the movie its edge.
"Relax," Hill says while Southern California goes up in flames. "When there's an earthquake, who do they save first? Actors."
PLOT A really fun party at James Franco's house is interrupted by the apocalypse.
CAST James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE "Superbad" meets "The Player" in this raunchy Hollywood satire, which lets you bro down with the Frat Pack and make fun of them, too.