Written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and based on the short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, the main objective seems to have been finding an excuse to bring together a group of friends for a few months so they can dick about and make a movie while they’re at it. As the title of the short would suggest, Rogen and his pal Jay Baruchel (who co-wrote last year’s excellent Goon with Goldberg) are two lead characters, with Rogen dragging out-of-towner Baruchel to a celebrity-filled LA party that he doesn’t want to go to.
So that’s Jay and Seth, and next comes the apocalypse. Suddenly bright blue lights shine down from the sky, enveloping people and lifting them up into the heavens, while a great deal of others fall into a crack in the ground and plunge towards a fiery hell. Left alive are James Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, as well as Rogen and Baruchel, who all decide to hole up in Franco’s house and hope for the best. And for the bulk of the movie that’s where they stay, with the comedy basically coming from them jerking around together.
Each actor – and let’s not forget that this stoner-comedy cast includes two Oscar nominees – plays an exaggerated version of their celebrity/screen persona. So Franco’s a pretentious douche. Rogen and Baruchel are a pair of lovable stoners; the former easy-going, the latter neurotic. And just imagine what an unbelievable tool Danny McBride must be playing if his usual role has been dialed up to eleven. They all have fun poking fun at each other, and sending themselves up too. “James Franco didn’t suck a dick last night? Now I know you’re all tripping,” is a choice line, fairly representative of the dialogue, and there’s also some great meta humour about their respective careers.
The cameos are fantastic too. There are at least two absent from the trailer that are unbelievably inspired and jaw-droppingly funny (which we’ll leave unspoiled), while the ones you have seen, like Emma Watson and Michael Cera, are even better than the trailer suggested. At the big house party we see the Superbad trio reunited, lots of the old Freaks and Geeks cast, and Jason Segel makes a crack about being fed up with his TV work (How I Met Your Mother presumably having kept him from a bigger part in the movie). It’s a cavalcade of in-jokes from the Judd Apatow universe, but given how much their comedy has infiltrated the mainstream those jokes are not nearly as niche as they could be.
Unsurprisingly, it’s really messy, and not every joke lands. But the script’s peppered with so many gags that it’s hard to find a scene where you’re not consistently laughing. Yes it’s low-brow, but in embracing its dumbness it earns its share of dick jokes. There’s no pretention, no grand ambition beyond the cast having fun and making each other laugh. The hope, presumably is that the fun is infectious enough that it transmits to the audience. For lack of a better metaphor, they’re hoping you’ll get high off the fumes… and if that’s the case, chances are you’ll leave pretty baked.