The truth is, Jay Baruchel hates L.A. Yeah, he's been in a couple of Hollywood movies himself, and his best bud Seth Rogen lives in that plastic Tinseltown. But just flying in to visit is a major pain, if you ask him. And don't even get him started on the movie star losers and hangers-on that populate the place.
So when Seth suggests they go party with his "new friends" over at James Franco's house, Jay drags his feet. Maybe he could just stay at Seth's apartment and watch TV. But, no, Seth has to coax and cajole until Jay feels like he'd be a heel if he didn't make a showing. So, off they go.
Of course, when they get to the packed-to-the-gills Hollywood pad, things go pretty much exactly like Jay figured they would. Stars and celebutants get drunk and stoned out of their gourds. Seth wanders off to hang with his movie buds. And Jay is left by himself in the corner. By the time he wanders into a bathroom and catches a coked-out Michael Cera with his pants around his ankles and two female fans going at him, Jay has had enough.
The put-upon pal stomps outside, heading to the corner store for some cigarettes or something. Seth soon catches up to see if he's all right. But he's not all right. Can't Seth see what this place is doing to him? Can't he sense how completely lost these people are?
How doomed they're all going to be if they don't cut out the craziness?
It's just about then that the first shockwaves hit: Windows implode and cars swerve and crash as blue beams begin shooting down and sucking people up into the sky. Then a gigantic, miles-deep pit opens up in Franco's yard, and Rihanna and others go tumbling in.
Jay always thought Los Angeles was nothing but a portal to hell. Now he's sure of it!
Although Jay is certainly no saint, he is seemingly concerned with his friend Seth's well-being. And he ultimately prompts a small group of fellow survivors (Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, James Franco) to at least start doing some micro-thinking about their lives and choices. As a result, Craig volunteers to put himself in mortal danger to help his friends. And the positive outcome of that selfless choice motivates some others to do the same.
Jay's the first to recognize that the fiery chaos taking place could very well be biblically based—a rapture of the saved and a demonic judgment unleashed on those who remain. But when he turns to the Bible for some interpretive help, what he finds and "reads" turns out to be a twisted amalgamation of what the Good Book actually says.
Indeed, the movie's version of the "end times" is that the righteous are beamed out as if by UFO while the unbelievers are immediately tormented, eaten, raped and torn to pieces by scores of demons and demonic beasts—including a skyscraper-tall, hoofed, horned and fully naked Satan—that have all been released from hell at the earth's core. Heaven, by way of hedonistic comparison, is depicted as a free-for-all dance party complete with drugs, alcohol, boy-band reunions and bikini girls.
Jonah Hill grows tired of Jay and prays that God would kill him. Soon after, he finds himself attacked and possessed by a demon. The other friends tie Jonah to a bed, and Jay attempts to exorcise the demon by holding up a cross made out of spatulas and repeating a line from The Exorcist: "The power of Christ compels you!" The demon laughs the effort off with, "Guess what? It's not that compelling."
At one point, the exasperated and tormented actors scan the Bible for some small clues that might explain why they mysteriously aren't God's chosen. Then they start voicing the foul choices that have stained them. Seth Rogen worries aloud, "I haven't lived my life as if there's a God." Jay crosses himself when talking of the recent dead. He also points out the passage "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain" to the others. But that admonition certainly doesn't dissuade them from their blaspheming ways. In fact, even as various members of the group are "raptured" (a discovered aftereffect of doing something self-sacrificial), they keep wantonly spouting obscenities.
The soundtrack song "Spirit in the Sky" suggests that you "Gotta have a friend in Jesus."
When assessing their supplies, the guys realize they have a Penthouse magazine in the cache, and the camera's eye catches several pictures of fully naked women in various poses. The camera gazes up at Satan, who's hundreds of feet tall and nude, his large flaccid penis dangling in the center of the screen. A naked human-sized demon with horns and a huge erection crawls up on a sleeping Jonah Hill and molests him sexually (offscreen). James Franco's art collection sports a giant statue of a multicolored penis.
When Emma Watson finds her way back to the guys' hideout, conversations turn to the "rapey vibe" that six guys and one girl gives off. When Jay barges in on Michael Cera in the bathroom, he finds the actor bare-bottomed with a kneeling girl in front of him and behind. A man dressed in nothing but a mask and a g-string grovels at another man's feet, raising his bare backside in sexual invitation. As mentioned, several women in heaven are clad in skimpy bikinis.
Scores of verbal and/or visual gags cover a gamut of sexual topics, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, rape, homosexuality and rampant ejaculation among them.
Here's what the California apocalypse looks like: Demons hiss and hit and scratch. A man is decapitated by an unseen beast, his head bouncing at several people's feet, spurting blood. A number of demonic beings—including a large bull-like creature and a winged dragon—rampage and demolish. A large devil has his penis sliced off. Human cannibals swarm on a man and bite chunks of flesh out of his face.
Heavy objects fall on people, crushing them and spurting gore. Cars smash through store windows and strike pedestrians, sending them flying. A fallen woman has her head crushed—causing blood to spurt and her eyes to bulge outward. A light pole crashes down and impales a man through the back. As he writhes and gushes gore, the pole teeters back and lifts the man up into the air.
Many people fall into a large crater, smashing on the rocky outcroppings on the way down to splash in lava far below. To save himself, a man kicks a pleading hanger-on repeatedly in the face until he lets go and falls to his death. Another man has his arm cut off. A helicopter crashes, and the broken prop imbeds in a wall inches from a guy's hand. Somebody is accidentally set on fire, and he runs screaming, setting the rest of the house on fire. Someone is hit in the face several times with an aluminum baseball bat.
Crude or Profane Language
Over 200 f-words. The script also indulges some 60 s-words, crude slang for sexual body parts ("p‑‑‑y," "d‑‑k" and "tw-t," etc.) and a host of milder exclamations, "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n," and "a‑‑" among them. God's and Jesus' names are together misused about 20 times. (God's is combined with "d‑‑n," and Jesus' with the f-word.)
Drug and Alcohol Content
Partyers on earth and in heaven drink and smoke weed with abandon. Cera snorts coke repeatedly and throws it, laughingly, into someone else's face. After the apocalypse begins, the survivors realize that they don't have much in the way of food or water, but they do have lots of booze, weed and pills. So they spend a day getting totally blitzed before trying to figure out what to do next.
Other Negative Elements
Gross-out gags and comments reference emasculation, urination and "sharting." A couple of guys drink their own urine. Cannibalism get some visceral screen time. In an attempt to help someone with low blood sugar, James Franco chews up a chunk of candy bar and spits it in his friend's mouth.
This Is the End begins like most of its stoner/sex/gross-out comedy cousins. (You can read our take on Superbad or Pineapple Express for a quick reference.) Only in this case a gaggle of lowball Hollywood comedians and recognizable entertainment pretty people—from James Franco and Seth Rogen to Emma Watson and Rihanna—all play "themselves" as they wallow in booze, drugs and casual-cool sleaze.
About 10 or 15 minutes in, though, this seemingly formulaic foul flick gets twisted: The ground starts shaking and splitting open, cars crash, people scream, fires rage and the party's Hollywood locale is quickly transformed into a netherworld of rancid smoke, demonic beasts and open sinkholes to hell.
It's a surprise genre blending that springs from a 2007 short called Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse. Never heard of it? Well, that's because it never saw the light of day beyond a rough-edged YouTube trailer. But that was not the end, as we now can clearly see.
The special-effects-laden end result of turning that short into a feature is … unique, with "Is there a God?" ruminations and the supernatural rapture of believers getting mangled and mashed up with graphic nudity, lengthy arguments about masturbation and ejaculation, drugged-out binges and rapid-fire f-bombs.
A postscript: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were actually expecting an initial NC-17 rating for this movie. And that they "didn't just expect their raunchy Judgment Day comedy to be slapped with an NC-17 rating—they secretly planned on receiving the adults-only rating. … Acting on the advice of distributor Sony Pictures, Rogen and Goldberg intentionally larded the film with a few sexually explicit frames that they felt certain would shock the movie ratings panel and result in an NC-17 mark." Then they were reportedly planning to snip out a few of the most offensive segments and re-submit for a more marketable R, raking in free publicity along the way. But the result was an R rating right out of the gate, with no edits required.
According to the Times, "The decision stunned Rogen and Goldberg. 'All the ratings stuff doesn't make sense in the first place, but this is like ludicrous,' Goldberg said. Added Rogen: 'We actually made it even a little worse than we wanted and that version got approved. Insanely, [we] didn't have a ratings issue.'"