The Christian movie is a strange, mixed-up genre. Artful (Bresson, Tarkovsky, Pasolini), artless (Fireproof, Courageous, most Tyler Perry dramas) or certifiably crazy (C Me Dance), it's all over the map. And when the Book of Revelation is the text informing your screenplay you wind up with Left Behind or, if you're really lucky, Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 with Michael York as Satan, zapping people to death and vomiting bees. Obviously, this is the perfect place for Jewish stoner Seth Rogen.
Along with cowriter-codirector Evan Goldberg (Superbad), Rogen has created a combo platter Rapture/Apocalypse that cares infinitely less about sweeping devastation (the digital demons and monsters are strictly cheapo, the repeated shots of the burning Hollywood Hills a drinking game in the making) than it does about a Prince-style judgment day where just about every young, funny celebrity Rogen knows -- plus Rihanna for some reason -- winds up in the Lake of Fire.
Childhood friends Rogen and Jay Baruchel (everyone here plays an amoral, exaggerated, ruined version of themselves), together for a "bro" weekend, ditch a wild party at James Franco's overblown art mansion and find themselves "left behind" in the first blast of God's rapture. Others are blue-light elevated into the sky but no celebrity gets to fly away to glory. Back at the party house, a sinkhole of molten lava devours just about everyone not already on the movie's poster and it's up to Rogen, Baruchel, Franco, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and Danny McBride to figure out a way to survive and earn their way to Heaven. What follows on-screen is, I'll just make a safe guess, not in the curriculum of any known theological seminary.
As writers, Rogen and Goldberg have a deep appreciation for a post-Clerks world where profanely funny self-effacement is the cornerstone of existence and brutalizing the culture of fame and good taste via semen and shart gags isn't a critique employed as a defense against charges of selling out or going Hollywood, it's a way of being. They've tapped into the inherent psychedelia of Revelation and enhanced it with absurdity, scatology, Ecstasy, weed and a contemporary secular ignorance informed by Terminator movies. As directors... they're really funny writers. Aside from a sickly inspired decapitated-head-cam POV moment, nothing here is aiming for art. It all looks mostly like a lot of Who Cares. And really, who does care when there are so many inside gags about Pineapple Express and demon rape to pump out of the joke cannon?
Meanwhile, clowny End Times alt-theorizing isn't really what's on this movie's mind, either, though another biblical concept is: agape man-love, that sweet, fuzzy intimacy that's so gay it's practically postgay, the extended hug that's been sitting in plain sight from Superbad through 50/50. Here it takes the form of Rogen and Baruchel's adult estrangement, which is its own end-of-the-world scenario, one that feels just as panic inducing for secretly sensitive types. It's how guys get to be tender with one another now, by loudly protesting that they don't want to cuddle and spoon but doing it anyway. Those ongoing themes of man-childishness and arrested development have probably never been the point at all. They've always been merely a way to get inside to the real deal: how to love your friends and be a decent man (or dude or bud) before the roll is called up yonder.
STAR RATING: 3/5