This Is the End takes early lead among summer comedies

It’s the end of the world, dateline Hollywood.

This Is The End imagines the Apocalypse, the Rapture, the End of Days, as doomsday swirls around a group of six actors and friends. And these aren’t merely aspiring actors or struggling actors. These guys are famous. The movie comedies they starred in earned millions.

Using their real-life names, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson play extremely unflattering versions of themselves.

The Hollywood hills are alive with the sound of demons. A sinkhole to hell ruins Franco’s lawn. And the actors reveal themselves to be, at least in the context of this apocalyptic comedy, vain, selfish, soft, spoiled and very ill-prepared for Judgment Day.

But This Is The End, shot in Los Angeles and New Orleans, is a story of redemption. However silly these actors may or may not be in reality, on screen in this crazy comedy, in which the jokes are on them, they’re not afraid to look like a ship of fools as they grasp for second and third chances.

A partial list of This Is The End’s principal cast members’ hit films suggests what moviegoers are in for: Pineapple Express, Superbad, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Tropic Thunder, Knocked Up. To the latter stoner, slacker, gross-out comedies, add Old Testament fire and brimstone.

Rogen and his co-writer, Evan Goldberg (their previous collaborations include Superbad and Pineapple Express), open This Is The End true to form. After Rogen picks up Baruchel at LAX, they plunge into a wacky episode of druggy excess.

Living the lifestyle of the stereotypically Hollywood rich and famous, Rogen has a beautiful home in L.A. He’s embraced the pleasures and perks accorded elite residents of the show business capital of the world. Baruchel, on the other hand, plays a latter-generation Woody Allen type. He’s a hunched, prolific grouser, a diehard easterner who hates L.A. Or so he pretends.

Ignoring the extreme altered consciousness he and Baruchel have already achieved, Rogen persuades his reluctant friend to go a housewarming party for their mutual friend, Franco (Pineapple Express, 127 Hours, Oz: The Great and Powerful).

Franco’s movie star salaries have given him the resources to acquire a grand mansion. His housewarming is thronged by celebrities and young, beautiful people. They’re partying like it’s 1999. Of course, the ultimate cops are soon to arrive and, for those undeserving of heavenly salvation, it’s going to be a rough night in Jericho.

This Is The End gets quickly to the business at hand. Armageddon doesn’t hesitate to slap Franco, Rogen and Baruchel and their friends in the face. That’s got to sting, especially for stars who, work hard in the moviemaking business though they may well do, were living the glamorous life.

The amusingly dry Hill gets his more than most. And, maybe following the lead of The Walking Dead, that AMC zombie hit that regularly kills off major characters, famous faces meet their painful ends an hour or so before the final credits roll.

An end of the world romp for laughs, the outrageous This Is The End takes the early lead in the summer movie comedy sweepstakes.