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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Newsflash: The world as we know it is going to end this summer, at least at the movies. There are a lot of film apocalypses coming out. So far, two - "Oblivion" and "After Earth" - have not clicked with audiences. Well now comes "This Is the End" in which, as our critic Bob Mondello explains, the world ends not with a bang but with laughter.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Actor Seth Rogen, the guy from "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express," is waiting at the L.A. airport when he hears his actor buddy, Jay Baruchel, also of "Knocked Up," call his name.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

JAY BARUCHEL: (as himself) Seth.

MONDELLO: Rogen and Baruchel are playing versions of themselves, or at least of their public personas. So is, seemingly, everyone they know.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

SETH ROGEN: (as himself) I have the best weekend ever planned. James Franco is having a giant party.

BARUCHEL: Yeah.

MONDELLO: So they go, and Jonah Hill's there and Emma Watson - and Mindy Kaling's all hot and bothered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

MINDY KALING: (as herself) Have you seen Michael Cera tonight?

MICHAEL CERA: (as himself) What's up, Rihanna?

ROGEN: I can't believe people still invite him places.

MONDELLO: So OK, you get the drift, right? Hip young comics partying and poking fun at themselves. Then all hell breaks loose, kind of literally. The ground opens up, swallowing hundreds of celebs, Los Angeles is basically in flames, and the five remaining guys at the party are left to take stock.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

ROGEN: We got 12 bottles of water, 56 beers, two vodkas, tequila, Nutella, a Milky Way...

MONDELLO: And to debate how to go forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

JONAH HILL: (as himself) Can I have that Milky Way?

JAMES FRANCO: (as himself) It's my special food. I like it. Back me up on that, Seth.

ROGEN: I don't think you should get the whole Milky Way. I want some of that Milky Way.

MONDELLO: And then to figure out what's going on.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THIS IS THE END")

DANNY MCBRIDE: (as himself) For all we know the Lakers could have just won and that's the reason why all this is happening.

BARUCHEL: I think it's the apocalypse. It's all in here. And he opened the bottomless pit.

ROGEN: The sinkhole? Every single time I turn on the news, sinkhole in South America, a bunch of South Americans getting sucked into the ground.

HILL: Sinkhole de Mayo.

MONDELLO: One thing you're not hearing, because the studio has only made clean clips available for broadcast, is how strong the language is. These guys talk trash trashily enough to make George Carlin blush, definitely a hard R. Still, for as long as Rogen and his buddies are just riffing in character as extremely obnoxious and hopefully exaggerated versions of themselves, things stay pretty funny. Once everyone gets tied up in plot, this glorified slacker flick goes slacker, partly because the whole celebrity-cribs vibe flies out the window when things get special-effects Beelzebubbly.

That said, Rogen and his pal Evan Goldberg - together they co-wrote and co-directed - are clearly having fun giving you the feeling that both celebrity boundaries and filmmaking boundaries are being crossed, a notion they're tapping into, let's note, in synch with other filmmakers right now. Sophia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" invades the homes of real celebrities for a story of teen thieves invading the homes of real celebrities and asks moviegoers to spend more time in Paris Hilton's closet than they probably spend in their own, something made easier by the fact that it looks to be the size of a two-bedroom apartment.

And a veritable who's who of French movie stars play themselves in Alain Resnais' "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" in a plot that has them watching other actors playing parts they once played. That's far more interesting in concept, obviously, and more elegant in execution than anything Seth Rogen and his buddies have cooked up in "This Is the End," but not nearly as funny. I'm Bob Mondello.

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