fresh/press movie review – THE INTERVIEW

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Kim Jong-un has been “honey-dicked” – to quote THE INTERVIEW’s (soon to be) popular catchphrase. The North Korean dictator’s response to this comedy is exactly what we all expected. His egomania doesn’t leave room for any other reaction. The movie lured him in and he took the bait, proving he is relentless and exactly how we worried he was. It turns out Kim Jong-un HAS a butthole… and he is a butthole. Turns out the Supreme Leader just got “honey-dicked”.

SETH ROGEN and JAMES FRANCO star in this spoof on the newsroom and its shift towards entertainment and celebrity gossip.

Franco’s reporter focus shifts on which celebrity is gay (this will be SPOILER FREE – but let’s say there are a couple of good CAMEOS) to interviewing the Supreme Leader of North Korea. Turns out the dictator loves celebrity gossip too. In fact he has a pseudo-crush on Franco’s egotistical news anchor.

Rogen plays the producer of Franco’s popular television show. He is contacted by North Korea to set up THE INTERVIEW with Kim Jong-un. Essentially, Franco is a stand-in for the DENIS RODMAN (when he was actually invited to North Korea as Kim’s requested guest). Then Franco and Rogen get recruited by the American Government for an assassination assignment. What unfolds is the most absurd series of idiotic events seen since the hay-day of spoofs like HOT SHOTS and THE NAKED GUN in the 80s and 90s.

THE INTERVIEW would never have garnered this much media attention if North Korea didn’t react the way they did. Whether or not they are behind the SONY cyber-attacks is irrelevant. It’s the reaction of the Supreme Leader that is news worthy. A foreign dictator dictates the world’s way of life. His threats scared theatre chains everywhere to not display this movie for their audience. These results slide us down a very slippery slope. What’s next?

LIZZY CAPLAN co-stars as the Assassination Handler, Ms. HONEYPOT

This comedy delivers what it promises – over-the-top laughs and gross-out humour. It’s vulgar like every Rogen and Franco comedy is. There is nothing NEW to the levels of offensive material. Take THIS IS THE END or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS or any other Apatow-crew movie and you’ll quickly notice each one is steeped in the same amount of adolescent sophomoric comedy.

Every group is made fun of – races, religions, homosexuals – they all get poked fun at. The thing is it’s always light-hearted goofiness. None of this is to be taken seriously – or express the true opinions & beliefs of the actors & creative team involved. These comedies reflect society. They say what we think.

THE INTERVIEW actually develops a rather sympathetic character (at first) in Kim Jong-un. We see him as a human. He is made human. Even if he’s on his best behaviour to impress Franco’s news anchor.

Sure, there is plenty of offensive material – like the blatant assassination attempt, the details surrounding his negative treatment of the general population, the gay jokes of the Supreme Leader, the defectors within his supposed supporters – but doesn’t Franco and Rogen poke just as much fun at themselves? Don’t they comment on America’s shallowness at the same time? Aren’t they making fun of every group imaginable? We can all laugh at ourselves.

James Franco frequently gets gossip regarding his own sexuality (in real life), but what is his reaction? Does he hire some cyber warriors to fight his battles? Does he attack the United States, and come seek refuge here in Canada with his (not so) silent hetero-lifemate Rogen? No… He pokes fun at himself every opportunity he gets (and here maybe a bit too much).

What THE INTERVIEW does best is teach the audience what they might not be aware of regarding North Korea – hidden behind the multitude of laughs. We laugh so much, but under the surface there actually is a message. This message just got amplified to 11, like it was plugged into a SPINAL TAP guitar amp, once North Korea reacted so aggressively to this dumb comedy.

FRANCO in FREAKS & GEEKS

Franco and Rogen have been on my radar since the phenomenal series FREAKS & GEEKS was on the air. I watched that every week. I was so surprised we had realistic nerds and outcasts on television. They all had authentic voices. And even though it was set in the 70s, I could definitely relate. The cast of characters from this JUDD APATOW series have since gone on to do great things, much like the writers and director of this amazingly influential cancelled TV show.

ROGEN in FREAKS & GEEKS

JASON SEGEL, JAY BARUCHEL, and CHARLIE HUNNAM also belong to the Apatow crew. Their movies and shows (like UNDECLARED which starred Baruchel & JAX from SONS OF ANARCHY) have slowly taken over the comedy landscape. They’ve always provided laughs (FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, THIS IS THE END), with a little drama (KNOCKED UP), and a little subtext (FUNNY PEOPLE, 50/50). But never have their themes latched their jaws around a country’s jugular like Rogen and Franco did here with THE INTERVIEW.

I actually watched their latest banned comedy Christmas night, after family dinner, squeezed in during the publicized holiday hack. Even though deviants stopped services for XBOX and PLAYSTATION, we were still able to watch this controversial slapstick comedy. I’m not sure these hackers were related to the North Korean attacks earlier in the month, but it still felt like I was stickin’ it to the (North Korean) Man’… Until the movie ended, and the hackers had denied us all service again. I thought the Man stuck it right back to us, um, up someplace very uncomfortable. I thought every person who streamed THE INTERVIEW got hacked themselves. Well, I thought, it’s the price we pay to support freedom of expression.

At the end of the day, THE INTERVIEW was worth the rental. There were a lot of laughs sprinkled throughout. The sequence in the Korean television studio was just so crazy. I laughed loudly the whole time. It just kept one-upping itself in a matter of minutes. This comedy, no matter how funny it was, would never garner a place in movie history – but now with the immense attention on controversy it could become a very important piece of movie history.

THE INTERVIEW may also illuminate the newsroom’s shift to cover stories popular on the Internet. The news shouldn’t deliver us news we WANT, it should deliver us news we NEED. There’s a great HBO series called NEWSROOM which covers this same thematic material in a humourous and cerebral manner. (Don’t let that important series SLIP THROUGH the cracks.)

One way or another, you must find a way to see THE INTERVIEW. It’s worth the laughs, especially if you’re already a fan of Rogen and Franco. For me, I feel it’s more important to stand behind free speech in today’s interconnected global community. Stand up, and laugh while you’re at it.

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What do you think? Did you manage to watch it over the Holiday?

Did this movie go too far? Is the controversy warranted?

Where does this rank with other Apatow-crew comedies?

FREAKS AND GEEKS

Did you want to see more of Lizzy Caplan’s character? Do you think she could have more involvement with the guys?

C A P L A N

Do you think this movie is dangerous?

So... What'd you think?

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