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Josh Has Seen The Interview!

I was very concerned and very disappointed when news broke that, because of the threats made by the terrorists/criminals who hacked Sony, the studio was pulling The Interview from its scheduled Christmas release.  Click here to read a terrific editorial on the topic from Drew McWeeny at Hitfix.com, and click here to read a wonderful piece by, of all people, George R. R. Martin.  I agree with the views expressed in both articles one hundred percent.  Suffice to say, the idea that a foreign government can decide what we can or cannot see here in the United States is a scary concept indeed.

Though I was bummed not to get to see The Interview on the big screen, I was happy that Sony did wind up making the film available for streaming.  After a week of limited availability, the film is now more easily viewed on-line.  (I watched it using Amazon Prime streaming.)

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I suspect you all know what the film is about.  James Franco plays celebrity talk-show host Dave Skylark.  He’s achieved fame and fortune interviewing celebrities and other pop-culture figures.  (In one of the film’s early scenes, we see him stumble into a ratings bonanza when Eminem reveals a tantalizing piece of personal information in a live interview.)  Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rapoport, Dave’s best friend and the show’s producer.  When it is revealed that North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un watches Skylark’s show, Aaron is able to arrange for Dave to travel to North Korea to conduct the first live, globally-broadcast interview with the dictator.  But before Dave & Aaron depart for North Korea, they are visited by two C.I.A. agents who insist that they assassinate Kim Jong-un while they are in his presence for the interview.

It’s crazy how much political furor this film has caused, considering that this is not a very politically-minded film.  Yes, it plays with the hot potato topic of North Korea and Kim Jong-un, but this film is not really a political satire.  It has some points to make about the cruelty of Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship, but a political statement is not the purpose of this film.  No, this is a goofy, raunchy, buddy comedy that just happens to be wrapped up in this political setting.

I don’t want to dismiss the political setting of the film, because making this comedy about the assassination of a real-live world leader is a huge part of the movie’s ballsy charm.  What a wild, insane idea for a movie.  I am dazzled by the craziness of co-writers Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, and director Dan Sterling, in using North Korea as the backdrop for their story.  And the film doesn’t shy away from exploring the repercussions of its premise.  I won’t reveal the twists and turns that Dave and Aaron’s attempt to assassinate Kim Jong-un take in the film’s second half, though I will say that the film explores the full reach of the consequences of their actions, and as a result there is a lot of comedic mayhem in the film’s final thirty minutes.

But my point here is that this is not The Producers.  This is not Primary Colors.  This is not Wag the Dog.  This is not a film whose primary purpose is to present political commentary.  Although the story is very different, the film shares a lot of tonal similarities to This is The End (click here for my review), last year’s film that was also written and directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg.  Both films are raunchy action-comedies whose focus is on the friendship between a bunch of guys, set amongst the backdrop of big, crazy events.

The Interview is very, very funny.  While it might not be quite as consistently hilarious as, say, Superbad, there are some tremendous comedic moments in the film.  One of my favorites is the Eminem interview I mentioned earlier.  But there are so many great scenes and comic bits.

As in most of the films that Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg have made together, the great joy of The Interview is in watching these talented comedic performers play off of one another.  Just as did The Pineapple Express, this film focuses on the friendship between the characters played by James Franco and Seth Rogen.  These two have an amazing chemistry, and many of the film’s biggest laughs come from the inane banter between these two.  Just watching them bounce off of one another is so much fun.  (There’s been a running joke in these films of James Franco’s attraction to Seth Rogen, and this film continues to play with that theme.  But boy, it’s still damn funny so I can’t complain about the repetition.)  James Franco is terrific as the brash, enthusiastic, sort-of-dim Skylark, and Seth Rogen mines a lot of humor in his straight-man role as Aaron.  These are familiar characters for these two performers, but they kept things fresh and very, very funny.

Randall Park (who’s been in a number of projects but who I best remember from his small role in The Five-Year Engagement) absolutely kills as Kim Jong-un.  This is a star-making performance.  Mr. Park creates a fully realized character here, taking our expected idea of Kim Jong-un and giving that to us, but then taking the character much further and much deeper than I ever expected.  Mr. Park can shift from child-like joy to real menace on a dime, and he is so, so funny in the film.  This is terrific work.

It’s also great to see Lizzy Caplan (Party Down) in a strong supporting role as the CIA agent who “honeypots” Dave and Aaron into the assassination plot.  She’s dynamite, mining some big laughs out of a number of quick cut-backs to her in the CIA headquarters in the second half of the film.

I’d be recommending this film even if it hadn’t been the source of such controversy and attempted censorship.  Now, I don’t want to over-sell it.  It’s not an all-time classic comedy, and it’s certainly not an important film.  But it’s become important because of the way that dangerous crazy people have tried to prevent us from being able to see it.  I strongly encourage you all to find this film on-line and to watch it.  It’s an important exercise in freedom to do so, I think.  And it’s a damn funny film, definitely worth your time to see and to enjoy!  I’m glad I did.

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