With nothing short of kryptonite likely to prevent Man of Steel from overpowering every rival in sight at the box office over the weekend, Sony is opening the apocalyptic comedy This Is the End today (Wednesday), preceded by late-night screenings in selected markets on Tuesday, in the apparent hope that a head start will prevent it from being crushed. And while most critics are clearly reluctant to award four starts to the raunchy, R-rated comedy, many of them are handing it three stars and concluding that the film hits the funny bone more often than it misses it. It is, writes Claudia Puig in USA Today: uneven and about 15 minutes too long. But when it's funny, it's hilarious. It is, she adds, an inspired idea: blending a disaster movie with a wacked-out comic bromance in which actors portray caricatures of themselves. The actors include: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, and Emma Watson. Everyone does a solid job of playing their hyper-realized selves, concludes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times, adding that the movie is a surprisingly relevant guilty pleasure, an incisive riff on the culture, and The Cult, of the rich and famous. A.O. Scott in The New York Times comments that the film certainly tops the recently released -- and critically panned -- The Hangover Part III, and in places it is genuinely, even sublimely hilarious. Why shouldn't it be? It assembles a talented, quick-tongued bunch of performers and happily dispenses with the pretense that they are playing anything other than themselves. The fake-doc aesthetic that rules so much television these days is used to witty effect as we are invited to hang out with Mr. Rogen, James Franco and some other famous pals, whose lives turn out to be exactly what we might have expected, based on some of their earlier movies. Still, none of the critics is willing to give the movie an unqualified endorsement. Great as it often is, the movie falls short of being a classic, Kyle Smith remarks in the New York Post. Smith particularly objects to long stretches of seemingly improvised banter. Still, there is stuff in This Is the End that had me laughing so hard, I sensed new body parts joining in to help out -- my pancreas was heaving, my bile ducts ripped. The scene in which McBride and Franco discuss the etiquette of what gentlemen should do in the act of self-love might be the funniest thing I've seen in a theater all year. In fact, Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune writes: I predict walkouts across America during This Is the End, along with a healthy number of satisfied, vaguely guilty-feeling customers who go along for the ride.