Seth Rogen, chubby man-child of the Judd Apatow posse, has graduated to co-writing and directing (with Evan Goldberg) his own movie, an apocalypse comedy whose joke is that some people (men) will remain stuck in adolescence even when The End Is Nigh.
The dramatic gimmick is a hangover from The Larry Sanders Show: Rogen and his mates play themselves, or a version of themselves the public might recognise. The exception is Michael Cera, not the sensitive romantic, but a coke fiend and sex dog.
Rogen is visited in LA by Jay Baruchel, a friend from his early days in Canada but since estranged. The distance is emphasised when they go to a party at James Franco’s house, stuffed with modern art and familiar faces such as Paul Rudd and Rihanna. The night’s in full swing when an almighty sinkhole opens up and most of the party is sucked down into the flaming maw of Hell.
The survivors huddle inside the house, terrified, later to be joined by Emma Watson and Danny McBride, the asshole of the bunch. Not that the others are paragons: they bicker and badger, turning the air blue with jokes about blowjobs and (uh-oh) rape.
But when does self-mockery tip into self-congratulation? Here, way too soon. The nice early joke about cossetted celebs (“Who are they gonna rescue first? Actors!”) is a false dawn. Half-formed routines substitute for proper comic writing. You get the impression the cast made each other laugh a lot; the audience, who are paying for the entertainment, may feel left out.