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End of world comedies go for last laughs

8:54 PM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
Left to right: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride star in 'This Is The End,' which explores what might happen if the apocalypse began during a party at Franco's house. (Photo: Columbia Pictures)
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By Bryan Alexander
USA TODAY

The end is coming! The end is coming! And, boy, is it hilarious.

At least that's the point of view of filmmakers who depict the funny side of Earth's worst-case-scenario in new comedies such as It's a Disaster, This Is the End, The World's End and Rapture-Palooza.

"The end of the world is a scary thought," says Craig Robinson (NBC's The Office), who is featured in two of the films. "But if you can poke a little fun in there, why not? Comedy comes out of tragedy. And what bigger tragedy can there be than that?"

The comedic approach is boosted by the idea that for every new legitimate global threat - terrorism, North Korea - there are a handful of other well-publicized events that fizzle - such as the Mayan doomsday prediction of Dec. 21, 2012, which was dominating the news while Robinson shot This Is the End.

And in Rapture-Palooza (in theaters and video on demand June 7), which finds humor in the terror after billions have been brought to heaven during the Rapture, the media were following Christian radio announcer Harold Camping's prediction that the Rapture would begin May 21, 2011. Camping was wrong. Twice.

"After the first one, the preacher says he got the math wrong. There is so much emphasis on these predictions," says Robinson, who plays the biblical Beast inRapture-Palooza. "And these comedies are becoming my forte."

In This Is the End (June 12), Robinson joins Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Rihanna and other celebs who play themselves and deal with a world disaster that starts as they attend a party at James Franco's house.

The premise not only allows an absurd look into how celebrities could act in this crisis (Hill predicts the government will save stars such as himself and George Clooney), but also pokes fun at the madness that would take place in the final chaotic moments - such as Harry Potter's Emma Watson wielding an ax to steal water.

TRAILER: This Is The End

"There are going to be weird sights like that," muses Robinson of the real End of Days. "I wouldn't be surprised to see a nice sweet person like Emma coming at you in a rough way."

Humor also comes with the way humans deal with trivial issues in the ultimate crisis, such as Franco's insistence that he enjoy the last Milky Way bar. In It's a Disaster (released March 5 on video on demand and now in theaters), a group of friends continue their selfish relationship dynamics even as they learn they will die within hours from the effects of dirty bombs dropped in cities around the world.

"It's not implausible to see people reacting in such a petty and narcissistic way," says David Cross, who plays a doomed brunch guest along with Julia Stiles and America Ferrera. "One thing I immediately thought of was how much it would take to convince me that the disaster was real. And it wasn't some elaborate prank, some flash-mob-MTV-viral-video type of thing."

In The World's End (Aug. 23), a British entry, the characters continue a reunion pub crawl (with the final stop at a place called The World's End) as the globe falls into chaos. It features the same type of hit-the-bar mentality that director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg employed during a zombie apocalypse in 2004'sShaun of the Dead.

"Traditionally, the British have a way of being dry, sarcastic and irreverent in the face of tragedy. It's something we've all grown up with," says Wright, who calls The World's End "a drinking quest in the face of the apocalypse."

The laughs might flow like so many frothy pints in the ultimate "last call.'' But that doesn't mean it isn't prudent to prepare for the real thing, says Robinson, who has already calculated that his fish tank at home could provide fresh water in a crisis.

"You gotta figure the end is coming at some point. You don't want to be taken too off guard," he says. "When it happens I'm going to put a scythe on each elbow so I can fight and cut at the same time. What for? To take on whatever comes at me: zombies or Emma Watson with an ax."

USA Today

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