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THE INTERVIEW Bad Bromance

20141224HOInterviewDirected by Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg

Starring Seth Rogan, James Franco, Randall Park, Lizzy Caplan

 

Who would have thought when James Franco and Seth Rogan started palling around on the set of Freaks And Geeks all those years ago that their friendship would culminate corporate espionage, cyber-terrorism and diplomatic brinksmanship? But it did, it really, honest-to-God, did, all because of this film, which is finally getting a theatrical release hereabouts. Given that it quite literally almost started World War III, it better be pretty goddamn funny…

Franco is Dave Skylark, a shallow-as-spit entertainment reporter, while Rogan is his long-suffering producer, Aaron Rapoport. They’re wildly successful in their milieu but Aaron longs for the respect of his colleagues, so when they learn that the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, is a huge fan and is willing to be interviewed by Dave, they jump at the chance. The CIA also like the idea, dispatching Agent Lacey (Lizzy Caplan) to convince the pair to assassinate the despot. Hijinks inevitably ensue.

In their last film, This Is The End, Rogen and his co-director, Evan Goldberg, dealt with fictional and metaphysical horrors to good comedic effect, but dicing with the realities of life in North Korea is a much more loaded prospect than the biblical apocalypse, and it’s hard to shake the awareness that, when you’re laughing at Dave and Aaron’s exploits, you’re in a way laughing at the plight of real people in real, horrible circumstances. Of course, there’s form for ripping strips off of unspeakable people through cinematic satire, but this is not The Great Dictator.

It’s not half bad, though. You already pretty much know if you’re down with the Rogen/Franco schtick, and anyone who got a kick out of Pineapple Express is going to have some fun here. Franco’s relentless mugging does grate from time to time, but Rogen’s reliable everyman act grounds the proceedings. Interestingly, the MVP here is Randall Park, who plays Kim as a kind of friendship-starved manchild – a guy who would be kind of fun to have around, if he wasn’t the murderous despot of an evil regime built on the broken backs of thousands.

After all the hoo-ha it’s somewhat disappointing to report that The Interview is, well, okay – not a brilliant and searing satirical hand grenade, not a lowbrow farce, but, like most of Franco and Rogen’s films, somewhere in between. You’ll probably have a good time watching it.

That’s faint praise for a movie that almost plunged the world into chaos, though.

 

TRAVIS JOHNSON